Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook the stage at the company’s annual fall product launch event and boldly stated the company’s new position along with the launch of an updated Apple TV:
“The future of TV is apps.”
Ten months later, very little has changed.
The Apple TV has all the standard streaming apps you’d expect: Netflix, HBO GO/Now, Hulu, and YouTube. But none of those apps have fundamentally transformed the way we watch TV. In fact, traditional networks with Apple TV apps still require you to log in through your cable provider before you can start streaming.
The “future of TV” feels a lot like it did six years ago.
On Thursday, Apple’s senior vice president in charge of services and media deals Eddy Cue gave an interview to The Hollywood Reporter about the company’s media business. He said the Apple TV is the perfect platform for anyone (including Apple) to build the future of TV.
“What we’re trying to do is build the platform that allows anybody to get content to consumers. If a Time Warner [Cable] or a DirecTV wants to offer a bundle themselves, they should do it through Apple TV and iPad and iPhone,” Cue told THR.
Yet, Apple hasn’t built it. Others, like Dish’s Sling TV, have made modest attempts to deliver live TV over the internet, but those services are severely limited compared to what you get with cable. Many channels, especially networks like CBS and ABC are missing. There’s no on-demand or recording option. It’s been plagued by glitches.
Apple was reportedly working on a streaming skinny bundle service similar to Sling TV’s last year, but the project has stalled over negotiations with networks. (CBS CEO Leslie Moonves admitted as much in an interview during Business Insider’s IGNITION conference last December.)
Yet in the THR interview, Cue says he’s not a fan of the skinny bundle because it limits the viewer’s options. Instead, he thinks there needs to be a platform that works better than traditional cable guides that help you find what you want to watch, sort of like Netflix, and claims cable companies aren’t doing that. Want to watch the Mets game? You should be able to ask your TV for it instead of poking around a clunky interface.
To be fair, Comcast’s new X1 platform does a lot of what Cue describes, and it’s pretty impressive. It sounds like Apple had similar plans for internet TV before the project fell through.
Apple has been teasing the future of TV for years. In 2014, Cook told Charlie Rose that he felt like the TV experience was “stuck back in the 70s.” Since then, we’ve seen very little from Apple to deliver on that subtle promise to change TV.
The new Apple TV is a great device, and could be a promising platform to build on, but no one, not even Apple, is doing it. Apple even scrapped plans to build its own television set, according to The Wall Street Journal. Instead, all we’re getting is a lot of talk and empty promises.
Apple is great at talking about the future of TV, but it hasn’t delivered.
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