I’ll admit that I haven’t been all that hot about Apple’s two newest products. Let’s start with the Apple Watch: I have never had less interest in an Apple product in my entire life than I have in the Apple Watch. And as for Apple Music, I simply don’t see the point of it when Spotify already does everything it does, but better. The new Apple TV set-top box that Apple will reportedly unveil next month, however, has me very intrigued.
Unlike the subscription-based music streaming business, where Apple got into the game very late, the subscription-based TV streaming business is just heating up. Netflix is a monster, of course, but there’s also Hulu, Sling TV and standalone options from HBO and Showtime that have given cord cutters a bunch of different options for getting their TV fix without paying for a massive cable bundle.
On the other hand, all of these options have left the TV streaming market very fragmented. And this is where Apple comes in.
TechCrunch’s Matthew Panzarino has written a terrific piece about Apple’s TV ambitions and he argues that the company is in the best position among anyone else to bring TV streaming beyond the cult of cord cutters and into the mainstream.
“I love my Xbox, it’s fantastic, but I don’t even begin to think of it as a source for TV, and while I’m sure there are those who do, I would bet that it is far from a majority,” he writes. “The experience of using [the new Apple TV] is said to blow away the types of junky smart TV interfaces we’ve had to deal with so far. This is the first real Apple TV product.”
The biggest things holding Apple back from truly transforming how we watch TV are the same parties that have been holding the TV streaming experience back for years: The content providers and the cable companies. Essentially both of those parties love traditional bundles since those pricey packages have helped them make lots of money over the years. However, now that the traditional TV bundle is falling apart, Apple is in a stronger position to go in and present itself as a bulwark against chaos in the TV industry, just as it did with the iTunes Store back when Napster and other illegal download services were killing off traditional CD sales.
“The cable providers and content creators are fine with gaining another endpoint for their wares — but not so much with being disintermediated by a platform that has the capabilities of treating their content agnostically, like so many atoms to be re-organized according to a user’s whim, regardless of point of origin,” Panzarino explains. “Some very smart people I’ve been talking to suggest that, by building a platform, Apple is generating leverage that it can use to great effect in these negotiations. A mid-market breakout box offering is one thing, but a huge, rumbling platform with an upward trajectory of living-room dominating apps and third-party content is another beast.”
The TV market right now is ripe for disruption and Apple is in position to deliver a product that could finally push the traditional cable bundle over a cliff. To me, that is a lot more exciting than anything the Apple Watch has shown me so far.