Once again, rumors have surfaced regarding the future of Apple TV. The television industry is broken, at least from a consumer perspective. Cable companies continue to rule to the roost. They act as what seems like an unnecessary middle-man, shaking down consumers with excessive packages with hundreds of unwanted channels. All of this controlled by an archaic interface on an often storage constrained DVR. People are desperate for change. We’ve seen little in the way of change from Apple when it comes to their hobby. Sure there have been a steady stream of new streaming channels, but those aren’t unique to their streaming box. They also make the set-up very un-Apple like. Probably the biggest news was their three-month exclusive with HBO Now, a new cable-free option that lets customers gain access to all of their programming for $15 per month. It along with Sling TV (available on ROKU, Fire TV), have been the first packages of premium programming that have not required a cable provider. Rumors today suggest big plans to offer an online web television service. From the sounds of it, there is hardly nirvana for cord cutters and those expecting Apple to crack the code, as the late Steve Jobs alluded to in his biography.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is working on building an online television service. It would be available on all iOS devices and the Apple TV. For a set fee, rumored to be $30 to $40 per month, customers could purchase a package of 25 or so channels. Some of these channels are locals to include ABC, CBS, and FOX. One hold-out appears to be NBC. They are owned by Comcast, who have seemingly have little interest in creating a competing service option. The service could debut as soon as September, with the company reportedly aiming for a June announcement. That would of course dovetail nicely with their annual developer conference.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the service would be access to the library of programming for this group of channels. Think of it as HBO Now, but spread across 25 channels. That would provide Apple with a Hulu-esque type of service. For iOS users and those who aren’t looking to replace cable, that certainly has appeal, but what about the cord cutter. This product could tap the needs of mobile users, road warriors and college kids. But what about disrupting the living room TV. The individuals or families that are looking for a clean break from the cable companies?
Let’s assume that Apple is able to secure a deal to include NBCUniversal. That would be vital to complete a local package. At the low end of the spectrum, the cost to customers is $30. Many of these channels can be had for free, with a low-cost antenna. Depending upon your area code, the number of channels can vary. The subscription cost of a proposed Apple web television package must be added to your cost for Internet. Cable companies group TV, Internet and Phone package services into triple-play bundle. My local provider, Verizon FIOS, offers services starting at $79.99. That quickly escalates if you had hardware and premium channels. If you try to decouple a service, there isn’t much in the way of savings. I had plans of replacing my landline with an Ooma VOIP. Those were quickly scrapped when I realized it would cost more to remove the phone service from my package. Verizon will sell you Internet only for $54.99 or you can opt for all three services for $74.99.
If the rumored Apple TV service is $30 or more, it becomes more costly than the cable providers we’re all trying to jettison. Effectively, you’d be replacing one cord (cost) with another. This has all the appearances of progress, but it won’t be the cost and experience game changer we’re all hoping comes from Cupertino. If Apple is able to redefine the experience, price may not be as big of a barrier.