Apple television plans still bogged down in media negotiations

Apple television plans still bogged down in media negotiations

For those waiting on a full-on Apple television set, or even an enhanced Apple TV will more traditional capabilities, it looks like you'll have to keep waiting, at least for now. While Apple is likely ready to go from a technology standpoint, they can't seem to come to agreements with entrenched, terrified media companies over the future of the living room interface and experience. Adam Satariano and Alex Sherman report for Bloomberg:

In recent negotiations, the main stumbling blocks with cable companies have included a tussle for control over the software that determines the screen interface -- the look and feel of the viewer’s experience, said people familiar with the discussions.

Bloomberg also succinctly sums up what Apple's plans are for the living room:

Since the middle of the last decade, Apple’s engineers have been working on a more advanced product to allow viewers to quickly find shows and movies, blending both live and recorded material, the people said. It would recommend content based on interests and work seamlessly with Apple’s family of other devices. An iPhone or iPad would double as a remote control, the people said.

According to Bloomberg, Apple most recently focused on deals to gain access to live programming from cable companies, without having to make completely new content deals. Apparently, however, the cable companies are worried that Apple will intermediate their customer relationships and don't find the prospect of more future-thinking business models appealing enough to risk the old, decaying ones.

And that's the downer in all this -- even if Apple's negotiations pan out, the best we'll get with this type of deal is an Apple TiVo, and not the product Apple really wants to make. Short of using some of that $100 billion in the bank to buy cable companies -- and they could never buy enough, globally enough -- and drag them kicking and screaming into a new and better world, we're all going to be held hostage to the fears, contracts, and comfort of the past.

Read the whole, sordid story via the link below.

Source: Bloomberg

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 12 comments. Add yours.

prlundberg says:

Yeah, hard to believe nobody has thought of combining streaming and live TV yet in a cohesive way since so many people want that. It's really not that difficult, there's just big money and entertainment industry politics involved. And figuring out a payment method consumers will accept.

Dev from tipb says:

People have thought of it. Often.

Google TV is probably the best example (cautionary tale) for Apple. They went after combining these elements in a big way, but for the most part they gave into the various cable/sat companies, creating a mish-mash that few people bought. If Apple cannot do better at the negotiating table, their best efforts will fall between Google TV and XBox Live -- a sorta-nice thing to have to supplement regular TV, but nowhere near its own system.

reactortrip says:

Lots of people have had the thought to make TV better and use on demand and live. Cable/satellite companies refuse to relinquish control over an old system that makes them tons of money. That's why Google TV and Apple TV set top boxes have been lackluster. They started out as great ideas that could of been standard must haves, but got neutered by people controlling the content on has been technology. Why give customers the channels and content they want on the cheap when you can charge them over $100 a month for everything to get the 10 channels of content they actually want to watch...

prlundberg says:

Sorry, I worded that poorly. I realize plenty of people have thought of the concept, it's just that nobody has figured out how to deliver the content because as you said more money can be made "bundling" channels nobody wants.

At some point this will change. If current content creators aren't willing to do it, you can bet that at some point somebody else will. There is a growing demand for it, and where there is demand there is money to be made. It may take time, but it will happen.

9thWonder says:

This is not surprising or hard to understand. Content creators, that is movie & tv studios, make profits selling shows and networks to cable companies. Cable companies sell the distribution channels, the cable pipes to customers. Neither really has any incentive to let Apple in on either revenue stream. If it's not gonna make them a ton more money then they already make they have no incentive to help apple do anything. They bit with music and it pretty much gutted their business. They aren't going to go that way again easily. If apple really wants in they need to start or buy a cable company and merge it with a movie/tv studio, like comcast is doing, Time Warner did, etc.

meskin84 says:

I think there is a market right now for both regular cable subscribers, and content subsribers. Before I was married, I did not even have cable. All my viewing came from Netflix and my own personal collection. If I had had the option, though, to say, have an Apple TV, and buy channels individually, for example, even without cable I like Comedy Central, and a few others. Even at 5 bucks a month each channel I would be saving a TON! Still making the networks money. With subscription services, and a device to pick up the content, it would eliminate a lot of excess charges. Currently, I think some shows have it right by offering the "Season Pass" option in iTunes. Its not what I would prefer, to pay for a show individually, but, its a start. I did the math recently and if my wife and I just used a credit card to buy a season pass to all the shows we watch, even at current pricing, we would save an estimated $400 a year. Well, she is one of those people I am talking about that still wants cable for surfing and discovering new channels so she shot down my suggestion. We are close though. Podcasts are amazing and offer a way to cater to niche audiences, it would be nice if the rest of the industry would jump onboard.

the weasel says:

ESPN has already done it. Their app on Xbox 360 streams live tv, but you can also watch any past event on demand. All for free. Or at least the cost of xbox live.

prlundberg says:

So it's not actually free, I would assume Microsoft is paying the subcription price. ESPN does something similar with ESPN360. If your ISP doesn't pay the subscription, you can't access local live programming.

Sounds like a way for them to make the money they need, but I shudder at the thought of ISPs controlling access to "premium" sites. Before long the "premium" sites will be cluttered with junk just like TV packages and prices will go way up.

9thWonder says:

yeah it's totally not free. you have to, one, pay for xbox live, and two pay a cable company for service or you don't get it. that's the key you're not getting it on xbox live until you enter your cable service too. See ESPN is fine with streaming as long as it doesn't threaten cable. Now if internet or digital services somehow prove they can make more profits then people will switch but so far, none have. Consider that ESPN is paying the NFL $15.2 Billion with a "B" to air monday night football through 2021. They HAVE to make that back and a bunch more to be profitable. They aren't simply going to give it away for free online. I'd love everything to be free but if they can't make money they won't do it. They have zero interest in doing anything to kill cable anytime soon. Not with a ton of networks and programs they are paying to show. It's not just cable companies, the content creators aren't exactly begging for free online services or a video equivalent of itunes as the major way to deliver video content. Simply because they don't make nearly as much money that way.

meskin84 says:

I don't need anything to be free, I just want a better experience for me, and I would be williing to pay for it. I understand how programming works, and I know that its great we get to watch sporting events and sitcoms and dramas on network tv, but to allow the user MORE control of HOW the media is received, that would be nice.

the weasel says:

Actually you don't have to have cable tv at all. I don't have cable or satalite, just Xbox live. It's not like HBO go.

meskin84 says:

I think its a little ridiculous how archaic the industry can be. My brother-in-law currently has a Google TV and one of the things I like the most is that the cable box goes THROUGH the Google TV and its nice not having to swap between inputs to go into the Google TV options. I think it would be extremely convenient if I was watching something on tv with my wife, but wanted to show her a trailer or video from my phone using Airplay and could just start the video, pause Live TV and then when video is done, go right back. In addition to that, cable companies already work with TIVO and my brother has it with his company and it creates a MUCH nice user experience for him than a standard cable box. I can only imagine what even an enhanced Apple TV can do.