Apple’s stepchild hobby was beginning to annoy me because of the obvious shortcomings, and then it struck me that Apple always plays a long game, not a short game, so, I asked myself, “What’s really going on with Apple TV?”
The answer became more clear. Apple TV will be like Mac, iPhone and iPad, and even Watch. Apple TV is a platform; in its infancy, yes, but a growing, attractive platform that one day could disrupt the cable TV industry without competing with anyone.
Channels As Apps
Already Apple TV G4 and tvOS-whatever presents a compelling, but not-quite-ready-for-primetime place to view what you can view on cable TV, but also much of what is available elsewhere– not on standard TV. Apple TV has a few thousand applications already, plenty of them are games, and more of each are coming every week. Apps do not a platform make, of course, so Apple needs more to sweeten the pot.
SlingTV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now– both cable TV-like streaming subscription services– have applications that provide basic cable TV programming without paying the cable TV company for anything except internet access (watch out for the metered internet connection; it’s coming to a cable TV company near your). Add to that instant Netflix, instant Hulu, a few dozen cable network television channels as applications, and the whole package– Apple TV as a platform– is starting to look pretty good.
Apple faces two large problems in getting Apple TV to the masses. The first is the TV’s input connector. Historically, cable TV rules and gets input #1, everything else goes down the line and requires the remote to switch TV sources, and guess which one gets used the most? Input #1, the cable TV company. The second is content, or, rather, variety of traditional content. Apple TV is coming close to– not there yet– matching what you get with cable TV, which, when it happens, and I believe it will, means Apple TV comes first, then cable TV or satellite TV gets dropped because neither has the variety of video sources that Apple’s platform can provide. Of course, a little 4k video capability and content would be a big plus.
If and when Apple TV can provide cable TV-like content, plus games, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, and everything else that millennial and Gen-x’ers watch instead of network TV, then Apple TV becomes Input #1. That’s no mean feat, it’s not assured, but Apple has enough clout that it could pull it off. How? Movies. Not just last year’s movies, but movies still in theaters. I hate the movie theatre– traffic, ticket price, food price, loud and abusive viewers, the smell, but even for a higher price I would be willing to pack the living room or family room to view a newly released movie. Apple already is talking with large movie studios to do just that. I’m in.
Everyone says the future of television is apps. Channels as apps. Even Apple says something to that effect. Wrong. Apps are the present and the future, but for television viewers those apps need a platform. Apple TV is getting there. No, not yet. Maybe not even soon, but Apple plays a long game and as long as Apple TV continues to improve content, capability, and choice, cable TV is not the future.