There’s another reason I quit cable three years ago besides the fact that I don’t watch most of the programming that came with my subscription.
Modern cable systems are awful: You have to use a beat up old DVR box that’s been used by who-knows-how-many people before you. (And then when it inevitably fizzles out, you have to schedule an appointment to get it swapped.) You have to slog through confusing, unresponsive menus. You have to use a remote with more buttons and options than the cockpit of a 747.
And you pay $US50 or $US60 or $US70 per month for that experience, plus the equipment rental fees.
Yes, it’s great to get a gazillion channels pumped into your home, but good luck finding what you want to watch.
If Apple’s new TV streaming service, which is set to launch later this year according to reports form the Wall Street Journal and New York Times, can make that user experience even moderately better, I can see people switching over just for that — even if it does have fewer programming options. (Apple’s service reportedly may not include NBCUniversal channels because of a dispute between Apple and NBCUniversal parent company Comcast.)
Right now there’s no good way to juggle your cable channels and the variety of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant. Samsung has tried with its smart TVs. So has Roku. And just about every other TV manufacturer. But no one has nailed it yet. If you stream a lot of your video content online, you’re stuck with the messy process of switching multiple inputs with multiple remotes to get to what you want to watch.
Apple has the opportunity to loop all of that together with the Apple TV as your hub. You won’t have to worry about switching inputs because you’ll have one box and one remote that controls everything. And if you decide you want to watch something on the go, you could stream it to your iPhone, iPad, or Mac instead.
There’s no guarantee Apple solved the TV problem, of course, but the company has been casually teasing that it has over the years. In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, Jobs was quoted as saying he finally “cracked” TV, leading to wild speculation that Apple’s next big thing would be a reinventing the television experience. (But that was almost four years ago.)
In interviews since then, Apple CEO Tim Cook has teased Apple’s “interest” in television. Last fall, he said TV was stuck in the 70s, a line he’s repeated at least one other time.
Now it sounds like most of the pieces are in place on the content side of things for Apple to make that vision a reality. According to the WSJ and NYT reports, Apple has deals with Viacom, Discovery, ABC, CBS, and most important of all, ESPN. All for between $US20 and $US40 per month.
If Apple truly has “cracked” how to get all those channels and streaming services to you without a confusing, clunky interface, that will solve the biggest problem cable subscribers have to deal with today.