Will Apple Unveil Its First TV Streaming Service at WWDC?
Apple has been alluding to its TV aspirations for years, and now it appears that the company is finally ready to take center stage with its plan to transform modern television. Ditching cable for streaming services has been an interesting proposal since t
Apple CEO Tim Cook shared his most direct comments to date during Apple's end-of-quarter conference call in April. He said to expect “major, major changes in media that are going to be really great for consumers," and that Apple planned to have a hand in these changes.
Cook's comments came on the heels of Apple's new partnership with HBO, for the first time letting consumers access the premium network's programs for $15 per month without paying for a bundled cable package.
How Apple's TV Service Could Work
According to a 2014 Nielson report, the average American cable subscriber gets access to a prepackaged bundle of 189 channels, but regularly watches a mere 17 channels. And subscribers pay an average of $90 month for this access, whether they use the channels or not.
Apple's service would counter cable's uncompromis- ing approach. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, as of March, Apple was working to reach deals with programmers, including ABC, CBS, and Fox. Based on accounts from sources familiar with Apple, the Journal laid out details of what the tech giant's service might look like, saying the subscription will cost $30– $40 and offer access to 25 channels from major networks, potentially including ESPN, Comedy Central, FX, and MTV. They say Apple is opting for a slimmed-down offering by only partnering with major networks instead of the hundreds of channels that standard cable offers.
A notable absentee from the agreement is Comcastowned NBCUniversal. While Apple and Comcast were reportedly in talks last year, the Journal's sources said Apple became convinced that Comcast intended to promote its own streaming set-top box with its X1 platform.
Even with the loss of NBCUniversal, Apple still has plenty of offerings on the table to carry out a competi-
“According to a 2014 Nielson report, the average American cable subscriber gets access to a prepackaged bundle of 189 channels, but regularly watches a mere 17 channels.”
tive subscription service. In early March, Apple announced its partnership with HBO to launch HBO Now, for the first time offering access to the network for $15 per month. If the service starts to pick up steam, it could be possible for others to partner up, including Comcast.
Following Apple's usual product release pattern, both the subscription service and an updated Apple TV will likely be announced in June at WWDC and released in September. In addition to aesthetic changes, the settop box will also include the latest A8 processor, added storage, and a revamped operating system, a source told BuzzFeed. It's also expected to work with Homekit-enabled devices. Other apps and music functionality will be a probable extension as well. Tellingly, the company website lists the device as "starting at $69," insinuating the coming of a higher-priced model.
Speculation started to arise about Apple's TV plans back in 2009. That year, Apple pitched a TV service to networks that would stream via iTunes and cost $30, according to AllThingsD.
At the time, however, Apple TV failed to pick up a massive following. Apple has sold more than 25 million units of the set-top box to date, which is still a fraction of the sales the iPhone and iPad have garnered. Since iTunes already had 100 million users, Apple reportedly settled on the music software as the driving force for the TV streaming service. Using iTunes still makes sense today. It continues to be very popular among users, and it doesn't hurt that you can find iTunes on any Mac or iOS device.
Since 2009, Apple has clearly had a hard time getting the support it needs from broadcast and cable TV programmers. Still, CEO Tim Cook hasn't passed on oppor- tunities to insult the state of television, calling it “stuck back in the '70s” in an interview on the Charlie Rose show last September. “Think about how much your life has changed, and all the things around you that have changed,” Cook said. “And yet … when you go in your living room to watch the TV, or wherever it might be, it almost feels like you're rewinding the clock and you've entered a time capsule and you're going backwards. The interface is terrible.”
While Apple TV appears to be gaining momentum, it's not the only one. Other subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu have started to offer more flexibility, while others, like Sling TV, Dish Network's new $20/ month streaming TV package, continue to gain popularity. These options are already causing people to cut the cord with cable.
Other questions remain. Will Apple's streaming service be that much cheaper than cable? Because some companies have exclusive deals with Netflix and Hulu, will users save any money if they need to buy subscriptions to these services on top of Apple's? Price will likely weigh heavily on people's decisions. After all, most people looking to drop their current cable service also want to save money in the long run. Sling is likely going to be Apple's biggest competitor out of the box. It costs $20 for the basic package and includes 20 channels, including ESPN and the Food Network.
Cable providers could step up the competition as well, by unbundling their channels and offering slimmed-down packages that allow customers to pick and choose the channels they want.
Wait and See
A new television service, and possibly other interesting gadgets, will supposedly make an appearance at WWDC in June. A TV service would be an exciting new endeavor for Apple and consumers alike. But, now that the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and Sling have grown into streaming powerhouses, there's no doubt that Apple will be facing some pretty stiff competition. Will Apple's streaming service be compelling enough to make you finally cut the cord?
“When you go in your living room to watch the TV … it almost feels like you're rewinding the clock and you've entered a time capsule and you're going backwards.”