Apple Seems Set to Unveil… Cable TV

Apple Seems Set to Unveil Cable TV

Apple Seems Set to Unveil

Apple Seems Set to Unveil

I love to write.
So when I was thinking about , where the company is expected to unveil their latest service offerings — including, notably,— I went back and read some of my posts over the last five years. That’s when I realized that I actually didn’t need to write a new post at all. Instead, I could just excerpt old ones to piece together exactly what it sure sounds like Apple is going to unveil in the television department tomorrow.
That is: a great re-bundling of much of the content we just spent the better part of the last decade un-bundling from the cable bundle. (I’ll go ahead and write the new post anyway, with a sampling of said excerpts down below.)
Which is to say, after a decade-plus of failed attempts to re-invent television, Apple clearly had a revelation: it’s hard to re-invent television. And so instead, Apple will re-create it. Despite all the hoopla, what Apple is set to unveil seems to be little more than the cable bundle of old, albeit with a new content base, slightly altered technology,¹ and undoubtedly a better UI.²
And even this isn’t a new concept.
This is essentially the same thing Amazon has been doing for years now with Channels. They’ve been having success up-selling the HBOs and Showtimes of the world on top of their Prime Video base layer. Apple is about to do the same, what they’ve “invented” is their own base layer. It did cost a billion dollars to create, but little-to-no new tech was needed. The billion dollars was for content. Table stakes, these days.
To be fair, there may be some clever packaging in the way Apple re-sells these bundles. But again, the cable players were doing this years ago.
The much more interesting thing Apple brings to the table is a single number: 1.4 billion. That is, the number of iOS devices out there in the wild. Amazon can’t offer this. Netflix can’t offer this. And certainly any single cable player can’t offer this. Apple is attempting to re-create the cable bundle, but for hundreds of millions of potential subscribers right out of the gate.³
And if Apple really does offer this to non-Apple devices — something which would have seemed crazy a couple years ago, but now crazily— the numbers just go up from there.
Anyway, this all sounds better than the current state of Apple’s art. They already essentially have the UI in place to do at least part of what they’re trying to do with the TV app on their Apple TV devices. But that app is almost comically bad.⁵ You click on a recommendation, you’re shown which app it’s in, you may or may not have said app, you click a button to open in said app (if you have said app), which forces you to actually open said app (if you have said app), which then loads the show. Or tells you, for example, that you need to subscribe to Showtime via Amazon Video to watch said recommended show. And you see this all play out in front of you. It’s like the cable bundle held together by duct tape. This new one — if Apple is indeed hosting the content and streaming it themselves,⁶ but also makes sense given the aforementioned sentences — should be a much better experience.
But again, it’s not a particularly newexperience. It’s mainly a new UI put on the old cable-era one, which Apple themselves helped usher out thanks to the app era. Funny that.
And yet, it also won’t be the one-bundle-to-rule-them-all, as cable was in the past. First and foremost, because. Funny that. Will one of the “skinny bundles” (those that re-skinned the base content layer of the old cable bundle) such as DirectTV Now, YouTube TV, Hulu, or the like? Maybe,
So yeah, this is a re-bundling, but bundles of bundles are still going to be the new norm. Apple just wants to be the new main bundle. Maybe that works thanks to the aforementioned installed base. Or if their bundle offering is creative enough.⁷ Or if their content is good enough. All of those remain question marks. And I expect those to remain even after tomorrow.Photo
All the pieces have been slowly getting put in place for a while now. And the writing has been on the wall. And other metaphors.

also this new, app-centric model, which is already happening, will lead to a rise in which aims to the experience. This is undoubtedly what Apple has been and work on. As do others.​
So, in a way, we’re seeing cable unbundle only for “new television” to be inevitably bundled together once again. But this will be the way it always should have worked. You pay for the channels you want and you pay for a service/box to organize them in a pleasant way.​
As if on cue, we just got news that to create a new… bundle.​
Apple, of course, is aiming to do the same. These offerings will look slightly different than the cable offering — again, chiefly, they’ll offer less content in a more fragmented way — but the aim is undoubtedly to rebuild the bundle.​
But the key to this new bundle is likely to be access — again, in a different way than in the past. In the new bundle, access means UI — how we discover the content we seek. And access means all of your content whereveryou want it, wheneveryou want it — streaming, device agnostic, etc.​
When you think about it in these simplistic terms, it almost seems silly that we’re blowing up the bundle just to rebuild it around these three core ideas. But that speaks to the power of customer experience and expectations, and also just how much people hate their cable companies.​
My guess is that Apple’s gameplan here is to sit back on the couch, awful/awkward Apple TV remote in hand, and watch it all unfold before they make their move to try to tidy things up a bit. You can already see their tests in this direction with the new “TV” area of the Apple TV itself. This attempt is currently But if you squint, you can see what they’re trying to do.​
The problem is that Apple doesn’t have the required content partnerships to make this area of Apple TV actually compelling. If they did, I could see this working: a newfangled TV Guide for the streaming generation.
The networks, in a mad dash to stay relevant may buy into that to varying degrees, but good luck getting Netflix, Amazon, and the like to fully buy in. Cui bono?​
And so instead we’re now seeing what Apple thinks it must do: compete with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc. Apple spent a bunch of time they would not take this approach. Their original content was all about promoting Apple Music or whatnot. But you don’t if you’re not going all-in on content.​
This is at least the or fourth attempt Apple has taken in trying to get Hollywood to play ball with their television aspirations. And this one would seem to be much more stick than carrot. You don’t want to partner with us on Apple Television? Fine, we’ll do it the hard way…​
In a way, this reminds me of the cable days. Our family had our cable TV bundle, but we paid extra for HBO on top of it. These days, thanks to the great unbundling, I assume everyone is going to want to be viewed as the premium
channel that HBO used to be. So the base will be something like Amazon Prime Video with its content, and the up-sells will be not only
HBO and Showtime, but AMC, and FX, and even CBS.​
The fear, of course, is that this ends up being even more expensive still than our newfangled hand-stitched bundles of bundles, which again, are often more expensive But we will have more choice than ever. You pick your “base” — Amazon, or iTunes, or Roku, or YouTube, or the like — and then you pick your add-on channels.​

¹ I mean, it’s still going to be delivered to many people via the literal cable of old (though perhaps many more via the wireless carriers as well now).
² And, unbelievably, perhaps!
³ Obviously, the 1.4 billion number includes many households with multiple devices, so we can cut that number quite a bit. And such numbers undoubtedly won’t be feasible over night, as there will be worldwide rights issues, etc. But Apple does this better than anyone…

⁴ Now the iTunes on Samsung TV thing seems to make a lot more sense.
⁵ One has to wonder if Apple didn’t think they were going to launch this new service much sooner than they actually did…
⁶ Apple, of course, wants to operate this way. It’s just amazing that the current content players would let them do this. Sure, Apple is taking on the cost of hosting and serving up the content, but there’s perhaps a much bigger, less immediately tangible cost that these guys are seemingly not thinking about here ()!
⁷ What if they — wait for it — bundle these new television bundles with their other offerings such as Apple Music, Apple News, and iCloud. Super Ultra Mega Bundle — aka

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