Apple is reportedly planning to launch a new TV service this fall that will include a “slimmed-down bundle of TV networks,” according to a Wall Street Journal report.
The service, featuring “about 25 channels” including ABC, CBS, and Fox, will be available on Apple TV and other Apple devices.
While there are already ways to get a minimalist television experience that includes network television without subscribing to a cable service, Apple’s new service will have the one feature that will finally make dropping cable a viable option for the masses.
More specifically, Apple’s cable service will come with access to a lot of live sports.
According to one survey, 45% of U.S. adults think cable television is a waste of money and only 15% say they would never consider dropping cable TV service. However, 43% of U.S. adults said the reason they won’t drop cable is because it is their only means of watching live sports.
Live sports is why ESPN is able to charge cable companies $US6.00 per subscriber per month while the average cable network charges less than $US0.50 per subscriber per month. Cable companies need live sports which means they need ESPN.
A quick look at the length of ESPN’s contracts with some of the major sports (via re/code) shows their stranglehold on live sports isn’t going to change anytime soon.
Apple TV already has access to live sports aired on ESPN’s family of networks through the WatchESPN app, but only if you have a supported cable subscription. A subscription to Apple’s new TV service would not only come with sports that air on ESPN and the broadcast networks, but it will almost certainly also give customers access to WatchESPN as well as live sports on other secondary networks, such as the Fox Sports networks and CBS Sports, through apps for other networks.
Apple will not be the first to offer ESPN as part of a cable-free package. Earlier this year, Dish Network announced Sling TV, a $US20 per month service that will include ten channels including ESPN. However, the key difference here is that the Sling TV bundle does not include broadcast network (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) which means subscribers will still need a cable subscription or an antenna to deliver over-the-air networks.
Sling TV does have access to programming on WatchESPN.
The one issue at this point for Apple’s new TV service would appear to be sports shown on NBC (e.g. Sunday Night Football) and NBC Sports (e.g. English Premier League soccer, NHL) as NBCUniversal is not currently negotiating with Apple. However, there is still plenty of time for that to change and this week’s news that NBC is planning to launch an Apple TV app later this year is good news that the two sides can work together.
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