Rumored Apple TV Service Rumored To Be Delayed

Dave Zatz —  August 14, 2015

As the story goes, Apple is supposedly working on a streaming television service – perhaps something akin to DISH’s Sling TV or more likely Sony’s Playstation Vue, given rumors of local affiliates. Yet, the rumored service is now rumored to be delayed,

Without enough content deals in place, Apple has scrapped plans to announce the service at a Sept. 9 event in San Francisco, which would have coincided with the beginning of the new network TV season, the people said. The main stumbling block is the price of content. Just as Apple once convinced music labels to sell songs for a lowly 99 cents, it wants to offer a package of popular channels for $40 a month, the people said.

apple-tv-concept-04

The primary sticking point (rumored) appears to be securing favorable terms in regards into retransmission of the local affiliates like CBS and NBC. While it wouldn’t work for all households, given location or construction, the idea of an Apple TV with ATSC tuner and antenna to pull down those locals and commingle the content alongside a Sling-esque library could be an effective solution for many. Which, of course, wouldn’t have the elegance and simplicity of an online-only service. If anyone can pull this off, it’s Apple (or incumbent Comcast, but probably not Verizon).

In any event, Sling TV deserves a lot of credit. Yeah, there have been some bumps along the way, but they’re real trailblazers here for live television with a substantial lead and a solid initial offering – great selection, great price. If they cleaned up that crazy interface, they’d conceivably expand beyond their millennial target market and into seniors, a generation that still loves traditional (appointment) TV but frequently operates under a fixed income.

31 responses to Rumored Apple TV Service Rumored To Be Delayed

  1. We’re on the cusp of a major shift in television content delivery and the network executives are terrified of signing deals that will probably end up dictating the general population’s expectation of streaming media. If the executives agree to the television equivalent of the “99 cent song” deal that the record labels regret, they’re worried it will ruin them.

    Apple knows the key to this service succeeding is simplicity. Simple rules and a flat rate that everyone agrees to. The network executives probably don’t want to be generalised like that.

  2. I can only imagine being on the homekit team since the new Apple TV has to be in that teams plans as well.

  3. I wounder what Apple execs would require as a business case before deciding to launch a streaming service. For example, what percentage of the market would they want to have?

  4. Does this mean no new hardware either on September 9th? I’m interested in new hardware and an app store but not at all interested in Apple’s TV service at $40 a month. I’m ok to stick with my current cable service from Fios where I get nearly all channels, including premiums for barely more than $40 a month.

  5. Rumored new hardware still rumored for September… Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll add one to my collection of streamers.

  6. Dave, these rumors always discuss content, but not distribution. Would Apple be willing to start a service like this, if they’re still at the mercy of cable companies to provide last-mile? Are there any rumors about Apple secretly buying up dark fiber, a la Google?

  7. “The primary sticking point (rumored) appears to be securing favorable terms in regards into retransmission of the local affiliates like CBS and NBC.”

    While it’s certainly possible I’m wrong, IMHO, you are badly misreading that Bloomberg story. When the story sez:

    “Talks with CBS, Fox and NBC, owned by Comcast Corp., have been mired for the past several months, said the people.”

    I really, really don’t think they’re talking mainly about the OTA stations. Fox and NBC have a myriad of stations under their umbrella beyond the OTA stations, and even CBS has some.

    Apple’s eternal dream is to offer an Input 1 Replacement to the cable box / DVR. You don’t do that with OTA, (and that’s not even getting into the fact that there is zero audience for OTA at $40 / month.)

    —–

    “If anyone can pull this off, it’s Apple”

    I disagree with this too. I think both the content companies and MSO’s are especially suspicious of Apple, and would have to have their mouths stuffed with gold in copious quantities before they went with Apple over anybody else in the world for a mass-market product.

    —–

    “If (Sling) cleaned up that crazy interface, they’d conceivably expand beyond their millennial target market”

    Of course, that crazy interface is a feature, not a bug. The only reason Sling was able to put together their bundle in the first place was by ensuring it had limited appeal. Unless I’m badly mistaken, it’s been reported that several of their content contracts have ceilings on numbers of subscribers.

    Expand by cleaning up the QoS, and the whole thing goes poof. Which should hint at why Apple’s eternal efforts in the space are the real Duke Nukem Forever.

  8. “Dave, these rumors always discuss content, but not distribution. Would Apple be willing to start a service like this, if they’re still at the mercy of cable companies to provide last-mile?”

    I have no idea about Apple’s willingness, but given that this is intended as an Input 1 Replacement, (as noted in my currently Askimet-disappeared comment), its introduction would coincide with mass introduction of draconian bandwidth tiering pricing by pretty much every single MSO in the land.

    And given the net neutrality regs, I don’t think Apple even has the option to stuff the MSO’s mouths with gold to prevent this.

    “Are there any rumors about Apple secretly buying up dark fiber, a la Google?”

    Buying up dark fibre is easy. Wiring FTTH to 300 million plus is hard

  9. Chucky, I’ve also read Sling has some contractual limits in terms of audience size. But it could still be a large, healthy business. And if the providers are making decent money, perhaps they’d raise the cap for more customers.

    For Apple, given Sling’s channel lineup and Sony’s slow rollout with high cost, I still think figuring out how to get the networks and local affiliates paid without breaking the bank is a sticking point. They could launch with only some cable channels. But for the major networks, I’d think you have to do all or nothing… with them going after all.

    DJL, with the last go around, one of the rumored sticking points of the rumored service was more about who serves the video to the customer (Apple vs content owner) rather than discussion about who manages the last mile. Like Chucky implies, the entrenched providers will figure out how to stay in power by enacting more data caps/tiers should these sorts of things really take off.

  10. And I hope this clears up the notion of WHO is ALWAYS in the way of innovation and truly responsible for those way too high pay TV bills: the content owners and providers, and not so much the MVPD’s and MVPD wanna be’s like Apple. So, big, bad Apple is experiencing what the Cable and Sat cos. have had to put up with for years: content owners/providers huge demands that translate into high pay TV bills. Part of me can’t feel sorry for Apple, nor Sony and Microsoft, as they try to deal with the same MONSTERS to create their own OTT pay TV services, and do note Sony’s HIGH monthly rate, and it is also rumored that Apple TV would be pretty close to the $50 per month mark like Sony. Uh, that is a pretty objectionable price point for the many who find paying even the average $85 per month to be onerous.

    What SlingTV lacks in some features and UI and lack of DVR, it makes up for in the just right price point of $20 for the basic services which do have compelling channels, especially Disney owned channels, specifically, ESPN.

    So yeah, it looks like all the coming OTT pay TV streaming services are creating a new home for the same old monster. Can we really believe that Sony and Apple won’t be forced to raise their rates to continue to provide the content people want? OK, we get maybe 2 years or so, but say hello to the old $80 per month OTT Pay TV bill sooner than we think. And we have to see if people prefer Sling’s less expensive, but somewhat limiting service, compared to the over TWICE the cost bells and whistles of Sony, and, presumably, Apple. Sorry for laughing, but Sony, Apple, et al. all thought that getting an OTT Pay TV service was gonna be easier faster to get done than they thought. What they have and are going through is probably beyond their worst nightmares. Poor Apple, he scraped his knee; shall we kiss his boo-boo to make his knee feel better? But we do need the competition.

  11. “And I hope this clears up the notion of WHO is ALWAYS in the way of innovation and truly responsible for those way too high pay TV bills: the content owners and providers”

    I think monopoly MSO’s are evil, but I’m generally on the side of the content companies.

    James Poniewozik, a long-time TV critic, is moving from Time to the NYT, and in his final Time article today, he mentioned: “Since 1999, the number of scripted series on cable has increased 1000%, and no, I did not add an extra zero there”.

    Teevee has gotten more expensive because there’s lots, lots more content and choice, (and higher budgeted, higher quality content). Personally, I’m pleased to live in the 2015 content world instead of the 1999 content world, even if prices are higher, cuz there is value to be had for the higher prices. I think a cable-sub is a far better bargain today than it was in 1999.

    Of course, if the middle-class continues getting hollowed out in the way things have been going for the last 15 years, then yes, lots and lots of folks will end up subscribing to Sling-like options, and content production will get decimated. But we’re not quite there yet.

    In short, (except for the monopoly MSO’s), it’s not about ‘holding back innovation’, it’s just the inherent cost of the high-quality product.

  12. “trailblazers for live television”. Just what I want. A streaming service to emulate the way I watched TV in the 1970s.

  13. Chucky, AT&T paid Apple via subsidy for 2 years of iPhone exclusivity. Until recently, all major carriers were subsidizing an additional ~$50 per iPhone compared to any other phone.

    Since the Fed is actively blocking Comcast from big regional moves at this point, it makes a lot of sense to join Apple in peddling an ISP/ infrastructure agnostic IPTV service…especially in Cox, Charter, Etc. land.

  14. The whole thing smells like targeting a declining market. Kids don’t care about television, they grow up watching/playing video games and Youtubing. If they don’t turn into paid content watchers when they turn 35, this whole market will decline like the newspaper business.

    Then there’s virtual/augumented reality to think about. Adult diapers will move down in age range as the youngsters tune out of actual reality. Who knows where that is going to go?

  15. “I still think figuring out how to get the networks and local affiliates paid without breaking the bank is a sticking point. They could launch with only some cable channels. But for the major networks, I’d think you have to do all or nothing… with them going after all.”

    OK. Agree they need all the OTA networks. So, now they’re going to sell OTA plus ‘only some cable channels’ for $40? And that replaces Input 1?

    In short, it’s Hulu+++ for $40.

    – First + for the now retired “Hulu Plus” moniker.

    – Second + for live OTA, assumedly in addition to the archived shows on Hulu. (Without the archived shows, they’re really just selling ‘live OTA’???)

    – Third + for the ‘only some cable channels’.

    I simply can’t wrap my mind around the incentives for anybody involved.

    – How does Apple make the economics work? If it’s only live OTA, maybe they can get the rights for only $10 – $15, but then what ‘only some cable channels’ can they afford to keep that price point and have some profit margin? And if they want archived OTA shows, the economics gets far more impossible.

    – What group of consumers does this possibly make sense for? Despite the lack of customer rationale, Siri will make it all worthwhile?

    – Why on Earth does the Hulu consortium want to sell their property to Apple, without having an equity stake, especially given that almost all the Hulu consortium have many other cable channels that benefit from the bundle, which Apple is trying to kill here?

    Why would a Wookiee, an 8-foot-tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor, with a bunch of 2-foot-tall Ewoks? That does not make sense! Duke Nukem Forever.

    —–

    If I were the Hulu consortium, I’d steal Apple’s basic idea here, but make it work for me in multiple ways, including holding the equity in the venture.

    Start up a Hulu OTT platform that includes current Hulu, live OTA, and ‘only some cable channels’ owned by the consortium. Adopt a Roku-esque openness to essentially complementary OTT services like Netflix, Amazon, and the rest. Either license a platform, and/or make the boxes themselves. Allow the service as a standalone on other hardware.

    That gives the Hulu consortium complete control over future direction and big profit in any upside potential. It gets neither of those absolutely crucial things by selling out to Apple.

    Still doesn’t solve the last-mile problem, but it solves a helluva lot of other problems…

  16. Chucky, I think you’re spot-on in the last part of your last comment. What you’re describing is essentially the same thing I described a few days ago on the TiVo Bolt thread over at TiVo Community. Copied below. (It’s a little long, sorry…)
    ***
    I don’t think the following is what Bolt Aereo Edition will prove to be but I do think there’s a hole in the market for a product like this. Imaging a streaming device aimed at cord-cutters with hardware similar to Amazon Fire (including voice search) that costs something like $75 to $99. Like TiVo Roamio, it supports up to 1080p24/60 video and 5.1 surround sound. The device requires a $15 per month subscription fee to function. For that, you get a base package of Hulu, CBS All Access plus the major free services like Crackle, AOL On, Yahoo Screen, CBSN, YouTube, Vevo, Plex, etc. (I’m assuming the hardware provider will be able to negotiate slightly lower prices with Hulu and CBS, allowing $4 to 5 of the $15 per month to go to the hardware provider.) That base programming package gives you on-demand access to all current-season episodes of every show across the big 4 networks, plus a lot of past season episodes, plus a decent amount of past season and even some current season cable shows, plus a few movies, as well as some new original series. Maybe the first month of service would be free after purchasing the box.

    The box also has a single OTA digital tuner. If you choose to plug in an OTA antenna, you get a program guide for your local TV stations. The device does not have a hard drive but there’s enough RAM or flash storage to cache 30 minutes of high quality HD video, allowing the user to pause and rewind live TV. The cache would also be used for streaming video, allowing for smooth instant rewind, FF, and jump back/forward features.

    There’s the option to subscribe to any and all the other major OTT streaming services too: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Showtime, HBO Now, Vudu, etc. If the user purchases a service or rental through the device, the hardware provider should get a cut. A unified User Accounts area in the menu settings lets the user manage all his streaming subscriptions and log-ins in the same place.

    It also has something like OnePass but improved, with a great UI for browsing, searching and queuing across all of your available services. While there would be no recording from OTA TV channels, shows could be selected within the program grid for later viewing via Hulu, CBS All Access or another service. Hopefully there would be some degree of UI harmonization among the various streaming apps, so that buttons on the included remote control work the same across all of them.

    I think such a product could be profitable. I’m not sure why, for instance, Roku hasn’t tried to do it yet. I think it would provide a convenient, unified experience that meets the needs of the vast majority of cord cutters (free live TV + paid on-demand streaming) without driving up the cost with hardware that most don’t care that much about any more (multiple tuners and hard drive).

    Such a device would come close to replicating the functionality and features of the now-defunct $12-per-month Aereo service. For the extra $3 a month, it would also offer some additional on-demand programming beyond what’s currently on the major OTA networks while also integrating content across whatever additional OTT streaming services the user might want.

  17. Anytime you have a device with an OTA tuner you are bringing a whole nuther’ level of pain to your customer service department , for a lot of people a set and forget antennae experience is not going to happen. This is why Roku has probably avoided it as well Apple.

  18. Tim, I ain’t got no quarrel with your basic concept.

    But as MJR points out, when you mention:

    “The box also has a single OTA digital tuner.”

    While you haven’t described a box without appeal to tinkerers like TiVo users. (I love my TiVo, whether for CableCARD or OTA), you’ve moved squarely into tinkerer/legacy territory. As Richard Dreyfuss once voice-over, it’s for the crazy once, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes.

    And while ‘legacy’ can often last far longer than capital thinks or cares about, and can generally be excellent for consumers, it’s got zip to do with Apple or the Hulu content consortium.

    Those folks want to throw massive capital at the FUTURE. They don’t want to throw massive capital at the present, or mid-term future. The want to own the FUTURE.

    So, again, I ain’t got no quarrel with your basic concept, it’s got zip to do with the plans of Apple or the content companies….

  19. Dang, Dave. Why does Akismet hate me? I really like participating in real-time active discussions. And while you’re most excellent at quickly cleaning up the moderation queue, (I have no idea if notes like this help out in that quickness or not), I still want to know why Akismet hates with the fire of a thousand suns.

    Have I insulted Akismet’s family? Does Akismet hold some ancient grudge against me having to do with positions on Irish independence in the early 20th century? Is Akismet just toying with me for the frisson it creates in its electronic brain? Curious minds want to know.

  20. Dang. You know it’s gotten bad when even your relatively short Akismet comment gets flagged…

  21. Yeah, I don’t get it. Maybe too many comments from the same IP in short order? I have no way to whitelist…

  22. “Maybe too many comments from the same IP in short order?”

    Really don’t think that’s it. My first comment of the day got flagged, and that’s not al all unusual. And multiple quick-fire comments generally get through. Length (and a dashed-line visual break to separate two issues) seem to have some correlation, but it’s a damn weak correlation.

    It just hates me. Ask it why for me, if you get the chance. I’d be willing to burn incense or sacrifice a goat, if something like that will appease its overweening pride.

  23. You’re generally the only one with legit comments that get flagged. I wonder if you pissed someone off at some other site who flagged you at some point and why Akismet remains heavy handed or maybe using different names with the same IPs across their network?

  24. “You’re generally the only one with legit comments that get flagged. I wonder if you pissed someone off at some other site who flagged you at some point and why Akismet remains heavy handed or maybe using different names with the same IPs across their network?”

    FWIW, I do comment on non-tech issues under a single different pseudonym, (which I can’t imagine is a bizarrely uncommon practice), but I’ve never had any comments machine-flagged by any other blog using either pseudonym. Years and years and years ago, I got banned by a few political blogs, but that was all done entirely manually, and even if that somehow got into Akismet’s database, I’d think either the statute of limitation would have lapsed, or Akismet would just flag all my comments, rather than a minority of comments done seemingly randomly.

    As far as why it’s mostly just me, (and I have seen a few longer legit comments from others get flagged), I still think Akismet has some deeply personal grudge against me. Perhaps I bought an electronic gadget that Akismet had been dating, and it just can’t forgive and forget…

  25. On to the actual thread topic:

    An iOS dev muses about the (in reality, never to happen Apple TV service), and also notes that it’s going to be like Hulu.

    But his reasoning is different than mine. He focuses on the fact that it’s going to be like Hulu in its reliance on non-skippable ads. Back to the pre-DVR days…

  26. The number of folks using OTA antennas had increased, not decreased, recently. And as long as it exists, incorporating free OTA TV into an overall cord-cutter solution is a very effective way to bring down the total cost. Multiple reports indicate that the sticking point for Apple’s upcoming TV service is due to getting all the local OTA broadcasters across the country on board to stream their broadcasts, which of course drives up the overall cost of Apple’s service. Even if “the Hulu consortium,” (ABC, NBC and Fox) were to put out their own platform/product/service that included linear streams of all their local affiliates, they would have to compensate them too, just like Apple has to, thereby driving up the cost; relatively few affiliates are network O&O. As far as my imagined service, I see the ability to integrate live OTA channels as a virtually no-cost marketing point. Granted, some folks won’t want to fool with an antenna but that’s OK as live linear TV channels wouldn’t be the main focus of the service anyway.

    I don’t really think live linear TV channels are the future at all. To paraphrase a commenter on another board about Apple’s rumored upcoming service, “All this waiting and it turns out Apple’s service is a throwback to how we watched TV a generation ago?” The future is on-demand streaming, like that offered, for example, by Hulu. There’s already a whole generation who find the concept of live TV channels, forcing you to tune in at specific times, bizarre (which the exception, perhaps, of live sporting events and awards shows).

    Having a service backed by the big content owners behind the most popular networks — amounting to, let’s say, Hulu + CBS All Access — to offer their content in a curated way as the base subscription, with the option to seamlessly integrate other streaming sources like Netflix, would seem like a smart product. The owners of various cable channels are starting to offer their content OTT too, so I could imagine the option eventually to integrate separate packages of current on-demand shows from Viacom, Discovery Networks, Scripps Networks, etc. for various additional amounts per month. Not exactly a la carte, but approaching it. In this scenario, the biggest TV networks have banded together to replace MSOs as their own middle-man. They would also act as paid distributors for the smaller cable content producers (Viacom, etc.) as well as Netflix, Amazon, etc.

    The trick with any of these new “alternative” TV services aimed at luring folks away from traditional cable/satellite is finding a package of just enough content, delivered in an appealing way (which increasingly means on-demand), that doesn’t cost too much. Once you exceed that $40 a month threshold for a TV service, a lot of folks will find it a better value to bundle cable TV and DVR with their broadband cable internet. That’s one of the reasons why I think PlayStation Vue, as it’s currently configured, is destined to fail. Hopefully whatever streaming service Apple eventually rolls out (if it ever does) isn’t more or less the same thing.

  27. “Rumored service runs into rumored contract issues running up rumored pricing.”

    Rumors have it that they’ve finally solved the pricing issues.

  28. Yowza.

    Well, my “satire” piece got the price right at $199, and got the ‘Apple TV Pro’ positioning correct too.

    But I’d never have guessed that they’d go the ‘produce their own content’ direction.

    So after weeks of stories about “Peak TV”, and about how content production is waaaaay over-saturated, this is their response? Maybe I’ll get the Eddy Cue and Tim Cook murdered in the Apple cafeteria part right too down the line…

    Buy the new Apple subscription content channel today! Only works on one box!

    With all that money in the bank, you’d think they’d just stuff the content companies’ mouths with gold, take it as a loss-leader, and play the long Bezos game. Saner choice than this. If it’s true, and plays out, it means they’re punting on Input 1 yet again.

  29. “I thought Pixar was Apple’s content production unit?”

    You joke. But it was momentarily true.

    Remember when Apple briefly offered same-day cheapie teevee show rentals?

    The only two folks who were willing to participate were Disney, cuz Steve-o was the largest shareholder. And Fox, cuz Rupert was going to take over the world with a daily newspaper for the iPad.

    Of course, even those two were only willing to humor Steve-o for a very short time. But in Disney’s case, it really wuz the Pixar connection that done it…

  30. AppleInsider reports that the revolutionary new feature of the Apple TV Pro will be universal search. Nice to see them finally catching up with Roku and TiVo.

  31. Down with Xenu!

    Hulu w/o commercials debuts today! $12/month. The Lawler post says this was long-rumored, but I had zero idea in was even under consideration.

    I have no choice but to sign up. I really have no use for almost all broadcast / basic cable shows, but there are exceptions. It’s probably worth my while solely to get season 3 of The Americans without paying a-la-carte or waiting however for it to get to Prime. And I was just about to buy season 1 of Mr. Robot a-la-carte, which pays for 2 months of a sub by itself.

    But that’s not even the real attraction for me. Hulu has the Criterion Collection, and it has exclusives on a lot of foreign/art films that I really, really want. For example, very few Jean-Luc Godard or Louis Malle films are available outside Hulu at any price, (other than on disc). But tons of them are just sitting there on Hulu. And that’s not including the various Hollywood classics / oldies too. Criterion is a treasure trove for me, and I’ve always resented the way Hulu had locked up many in exclusives, since I don’t do non-skippable ads.

    Jeebus. This is a really big deal from my POV. If I weren’t an NBA junkie, and if the MSO pricing weren’t designed to discourage it, I could actually see us canceling our cable sub for the first time. This beats the hell out of the service Apple wants to offer, but will never be able to…