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Apple may be reinventing the way we think about live television

Apple TV interfaceApple has done it before with the iPhone and the iPad: they’ve reinvented the way we think about phones and mobile computing. Hold on…they’re out to do it again.

 

Reports of Apple revamping its Apple TV have been circulating for quite some time. The rumors originated by saying that Apple was planning on making a whole new product, likely an Apple HDTV, a high definition television complete with Apple TV software. The rumors then morphed into saying Apple would merely revamp its current Apple TV set-top box to allow it to play live cable TV.

 

Apple may now be thinking of a way to completely change the way we purchase live TV, on top of changing how we watch it and interact with it. Fortune reported on a “company update” from Pacific Crest, in which Apple executives offered opinions on the possibility of an Apple TV. The executives stated that Apple does not agree with the way that cable companies charge consumers for service. If you think about it, you pay a whole lot of money for a bunch of channels that don’t interest you. How many channels do you watch on your TV? Myself, I usually only visit 10 channels out of the thousands of channels offered to me.

 

If Apple were to have a cable TV service, they would only charge for the channels that you watch. Existing cable providers would never provide such an option; both the networks and the providers make too much money by bundling thousands of channels into one package! Fortunately, Apple is the kind of company that likes to change its products based on what the consumers want while somehow finding a way to make money off of it. I would not be surprised if Apple is attempting to team up with a company to deliver non-bundled cable television, meaning that you would only pay for the channels that you want.

 

There are problems, however. First of all, there aren’t many companies that offer non-bundled cable. Furthermore, the few companies that do operate without bundled channels usually sacrifice larger, more popular networks such as FOX, CNN, ABC, etc. These large networks only like to deal with the cable companies that charge in bundles. Networks make more money that way because they get paid without the guarantee that people will watch their network. Therefore, the chances of Apple finding a way to offer non-bundled cable worthy of placing in one of their products is unlikely.

 

Heeding the problems of non-bundled cable service, let’s take a look at the possibility of seeing a bundled cable service (such as Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Direct TV, etc.) in the Apple TV. Take a step back and look at what the Apple TV is today: a device for watching on-demand content on your TV. That’s exactly what cable providers are scared of! On-demand, online content (such as Hulu, YouTube, iTunes, Netflix, etc.) are competition for live TV. Who’s going to watch a live movie channel that plays commercials every 20 minutes when Netflix is only a click away? Who’s going to keep up with a sitcom series on live TV when that same series is on-demand on Hulu?

 

The way I see it, the only safe networks are the news networks. Networks like FOX and CNN, and also local news networks, cannot be as readily replaced with on-demand services. Sure, you can read news on the web, but I believe local news channels cannot be replaced with internet text and video clips. Unfortunately, the news channels are operated by networks that deal with the bundled cable providers. Therefore, you can’t get the news channels without the other thousands of channels.

 

My prediction is that the Apple TV is going to stay the same…for now. In the future, I think Apple will find a way to mix live TV with on-demand, online content. Apple is an innovative company; they’ve blown our minds before. With time, they’ll do it again.

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