I’ve harped on this before, but it bears repeating: Apple is in for the fight of its life when it comes to making the TV experience better. A new report in Bloomberg, citing a number of sources, seems to indicate it could be a very long time before this gets sorted and you’re able to find episodes of The Office no matter which you prefer (new, rerun, America, British, on TV or streaming, etc.).
It’s simple, really: cable companies want you to be glued to the couch, and they really don’t want you to have a smart friend helping you find what you want. They’d rather you stumble onto stuff you can tolerate, and sit there for hours. Media companies want this, but they also want all the metrics (when you started, where you bailed, your age, race, favorite band, etc.).
In other words, Apple is going to have to quit being Apple to make this happen.
Reading the Bloomberg article made me angry. Here are some irksome phrases to get you started:
“…media companies are concerned that a better-designed Apple product will undermine their business model”
“Les Moonves [CEO of CBS] said in a public appearance last year that he also has rejected different Apple TV proposals”
Steve Jobs told Apple execs… “unless the company can get more content, especially live broadcasting, Apple’s impact on television wouldn’t be disruptive…”
“Moffett [analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.] added that any notion that Apple could soon unveil its TV system “ignores the business realities that make this such a complicated industry.””
As the authors of the Bloomberg piece note,
“This battle is nothing like Apple’s previous forays into the music and mobile phone spheres, when the maker of iPods and iPhones negotiated with weakened record labels and a fractured wireless industry. Now the stakes are even higher and the competition tougher.”
Indeed, and I’ve been saying this since the first Apple TV appeared. One need only look to how Hulu jockeyed for years to block any alternative means of viewing its web content across a number of other services, most notably Boxee.
Media companies want the data, cable companies want everything to never change. Thus, the two key holders to the kingdom — a kingdom which is merely a better user experience — are blocking Apple’s route. Besides the cash reserves and a series of hot consumer products (Apple TV isn’t one of them), Apple doesn’t have much in the way of power-ups to defeat these bosses.
And while Eddy Cue is awesome, he’s not the balls-to-the-wall negotiator Jobs was. Then again, it only takes one cable company to “bet on Cupertino,” as MacTheDave points out. Perhaps one brave company will embrace change, and others will follow. We shall see.
Read the full Bloomberg piece, but prepare to get depressed if you value your time and effort. Media and cable companies want you to suffer a crappy experience, that much is clear. The cable industry seems to rely upon it, and with that huge economic incentive, it will trump you, the customer.
This is why we love Apple products. Because the people who make them care about the people who use them. When’s the last time you said that about your cable company?