There has been an endless wait for the much-ballyhooed Apple television set.
Last year, one of the reasons Apple stock charged above $700 was the conviction of many analysts that Apple would soon launch a magical new TV set that would turbocharge sales and revolutionise the TV industry.
Well, the TV never arrived.
Instead, we got news stories about how Apple had been trying–and failing–to strike content deals with TV networks and cable companies.
But now there’s cause for hope again! If not for a television set in particular, at least for further progress in Apple’s TV efforts.
Bloomberg’s Adam Satariano and Alex Sherman report that Apple is close to signing a deal with Time Warner Cable to allow Time Warner Cable subscribers to watch Time Warner Cable channels over Apple TV.
The companies are planning to announce the deal within a few months, Bloomberg reports.
The deal would allow the ~12 million owners of Apple TV boxes to stream Time Warner channels. It would not, yet, involve (or require) the launch of an Apple television set.
A deal like this would be a change in strategy from the one that some analysts expected Apple to pursue–namely, one in which Apple would sell TV programming directly to consumers, bypassing cable and other pay-TV providers in the process.
This deal would mean that Apple is now working within the current pay-TV structure, which is the route many “over-the-top” TV content providers are going.
A deal like this would also mean that Apple would not really be “revolutionizing” the TV industry so much as continuing to change it incrementally.
If Time Warner Cable subscribers can watch most (or all) Time Warner Cable channels via Apple TV, Apple’s little television add-on, this would radically increase the value of Apple TV to these households.
And, more importantly, this would be the first step in unifying what, in many households, has now become an annoying hodge-podge of TV interfaces–Apple TV or another Internet-powered set-top box for Netflix, Hulu, and on-demand movies and programs, and normal cable TV for sports and live television.
If Apple can begin to make Apple TV (or an Apple television set) the primary interface for television, Apple will begin to amass a very powerful position in the TV industry. With a proliferation of thousands upon thousands of TV content choices available on-demand at any time, the power of the owner of the gateway to the content increases. The power of the particular “pipe” or “network” that packages it, meanwhile, decreases. ‘
Eventually, if Apple can place itself between enough consumers and enough television programming, Apple will likely be able to begin “go direct” to some television content producers, cutting out some of the current aggregators (networks and cable companies) in the process.
In other words, although a deal like this would be a small step relative to the “revolution” that some were expecting Apple to deliver in the TV arena, it would still be an important step. And it would be one that could eventually lead to Apple amassing a considerably stronger position in the TV industry.
Disclosure: A few months ago, when Apple stock fell to $390, I bought some. I think stock-picking is an idiotic strategy for individual investors, and I invest almost entirely in low-cost, tax efficient index funds. But, sometimes, I just have to put my money where my mouth is. If Apple really is becoming Nokia, as many on Wall Street now expect, the stock could drop to $250. If Apple merely does OK over the next several years, however, the stock should do OK. And in the meantime, it will pay a nice, fat dividend.
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