Eddy Cue, Apple’s content chief, dropped a bunch of clues about what a new Apple TV would look like and the problems the company faces if it wants to make and sell one. He was speaking yesterday at the Re/code conference.
The backdrop here is that although Apple has an “Apple TV” device, it doesn’t do much to improve on the way we currently watch TV and it isn’t actually a television. There is widespread agreement in the tech world that the network and cable TV model is a dinosaur that has failed to keep up with an “over the top” streaming video world. And new viewers are turning away from traditional TV in droves.
Nonetheless, TV is a $US60 billion-plus annual business based on a device with a screen that every home owns — which is what makes it so attractive to everyone in the tech industry.
Cue said “the TV experience sucks,” “All we have today is glorified VCRs,” and “The experience has been stuck.” There are the logistical problems for the average TV viewer, Cue says, according to 9to5Mac:
He even went so far as to compare current technology with the VCRs of a bygone era — and he’s not wrong. Cue cited drawbacks such as having to remember to set a recording or trying to manage storage on the recorder as reasons on-demand streaming through the Apple TV is growing in popularity.
That’s not to say he’s especially fond of today’s on-demand systems either, though. Not only did Cue have sharp criticisms for modern recording tech, he even jabbed at the streaming experience on the iPad, noting that the process of authenticating with a cable provider to access streaming content is less-than-ideal.
So from this we can see that if Apple were to produce an Apple TV, it would likely have a system that searched, discovered and suggested content for viewers automatically, without the need for viewers to remember to record their shows, like they used to with VCRs.
And it would have to bypass the whole regional/blackout/password access problem that cable providers have imposed on people who want to watch TV on their iPads or phones.
That’s a complicated problem to solve because, as Apple has long known, getting the studios, the networks, the syndicators, and the cable providers to all agree on the same universal licensing rights for a new device is nearly impossible. “One of the problems you have with TV is you have a bunch of disparate systems,” Cue said. “There’s no standards. … It’s a complicated landscape.”
It’s the opposite of the music business, AppleInsider points out, where if you want to play a song you simply pay a royalty to a central clearing house which distributes the fee. That’s why Apple is plowing ahead with iTunes and Beats, but is treading water on TV development.
But Apple has a big incentive to expand its existing Apple TV box business: Apple has sold 20 million Apple TVs to date and made more than $US1 billion in sales, Cue said. It’s a growing business — which is why everyone expects Apple to eventually get into it with a new, fully fledged TV set device.
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