Apple is talking to Comcast about an arrangement that would ensure streaming video to Apple TV boxes would be uncongested and not suffer from any buffering or interruptions.
It’s exciting stuff, if you’re one of those people hoping that Apple will eventually produce an Apple TV product that will revolutionise the boob tube.
Investors want Apple to release a new product, and a fancy new Apple TV product would be a huge boost to the company, which is going through a blah period right now..
It’s not clear, though, why Comcast would want to dance with Apple.
Every other big media industry has been crushed by the Internet. The music industry is a shell of itself, the news industry is a shell of itself. The books industry is shrinking.
Even wireless carriers like AT&T that empowered Apple have been stung. They lost high margin text messaging revenue to apps like Whatsapp. They lost control of their customers to Apple. All that app revenue is going to Apple instead of them.
With that in mind, Comcast shouldn’t be in a hurry to team up with Apple. It operates a great business and has a healthy track record of protecting it against the kind of disruption and disintermediation that the internet has already performed upon the news, music and books business.
TV is ripe for that kind of creative destruction. TV has basically not changed since cable reached a majority of homes and became the main installed network for watching shows in the 1980s. And it’s still hugely profitable.
But it’s not all good in Comcast-land.
But most people do not know that the TV industry is in a long slow decline.
People are cancelling their cable TV subs in the hundreds of thousands. This chart from One Touch Intelligence tracks net additions or losses of subscribers at Comcast, Time Warner, DirecTV, AT&T and Verizon and a bunch of other major TV providers. Overall, people are leaving TV.
Broadband internet service — which includes cable TV as a bundle — is picking up some of the slack, but not all of it. And as Charter Communications discovered recently, some users are abandoning broadband, too. (They’re probably migrating to free wifi.)
Comcast, naturally, is sensitive to this, and doesn’t want to be on the wrong side of Apple in the event that consumers demand a TV experience from Apple rather than their local cable company.
If Apple can deliver a great TV experience that keeps people hooked on paying for TV, then Comcast might be forced to work with Apple and hope for the best.
Look at this chart, and ask yourself: does Apple need TV more, or does TV need Apple more?