Apple is trying pitch an update to its Apple TV streaming service and negotiating for content for launch by Christmas, according to a New York Post article. The rumors or news would position iCloud and iTunes on the Apple TV vs Roku and Apple TV vs Hulu battle on a new frontier, the same way Apple redefined the smartphone with the iPhone. The Apple TV streaming service is rumored to be mentioned with the iPad 3 release on March 7th, 2012, although whether or not Apple can hack industry negotiations remains to be seen. Siri is also probable for inclusion in a new Apple TV update as a means to navigate and negotiate your way through channels.
The idea is that Apple is pitching channels for the iPad 3, iPhone, Apple TV set-top box (and possibly the mythical beast known as the Apple TV Set) as a kind of Apple TV app or online subscription TV service. The idea is that Apple TV is "locked" in a negotiating battle with content providers for TV content streaming a la Apple TV.
The New York Post article states over the top juicy quotes like "They want everything for nothing,” and Apple TV taking a negotiating position of “we decide the price, we decide what content.” This kind of mirrors what we've heard about the iTunes Music Store, and how Apple and Steve Jobs basically ran the game and the four major labels had little choice but to eventually agree with Apple's terms. It makes sense that Apple would try this with Apple TV, as these days the medium is more important the content, in terms of owning the game.
"“They want to create the interface, and they wanted to work with the cable guys to manage bandwidth across the TV and broadband pipeline,” said another anonymous source in the NY Post article. The battle here seems to be Apple TV vs the cable TV and network TV industry -- all of whom want to offer they're own rollout of streaming services to "cash in" on the next big wave. GigaOm draws a different sword though, saying "The key bit of tension here appears to be that the networks and distributors expect Apple to license their content for a new range of TV devices. They don’t want to build free apps that would just help Apple sell devices without getting paid for them, believing that those apps could potentially cannibalize their broadcast and cable TV audiences."
"Everybody's keeps on talking about it, nobody's getting it done" are the lyrics in the LCD Soundsystem song "Yeah." This seems a good definition of the pulse right now, industry players are talking, high-priced lawyers are negotiating board room strategies ... and we've got nothing. Yet.
Right ... we've seen this story before in the 90's and the 2000's ... nobody wants to play in the same sandbox so their app or service can be THE NEXT BIG THING. Which leads to NOBODY's app or service being the next big thing, which leads to "piracy" through BitTorrents and various online means. Think of the horrors the music industry has brought onto itself by playing this tragic nightmare out over and over again. Now the streaming TV channel story looks destined to play out this way as well just as it "arrives," unless something can change the narrative. Maybe Apple TV can do that.
The Apple TV set-top box has the possibility of defining a TV revolution through the right combination of iTunes and iCloud, along with the idea of "channels," the ultimate buzzword in online streaming video right now. TV channels are are tired and so last century. They're linear and analog and have interruptive breaks for commercials. Online streaming channels are oh so hot right now, because they're not linear, can run ads concurrent with shows (not interrupting your viewing experience) and even include social mediums like Twitter or Facebook to get real-time reactions from people in your social circle or anyone else out there. The SNL performance of Lana Del Ray, the Republican debates, the Superbowl and any awards show can show us the power of online streaming of live TV. Plus, if you miss the live broadcast, you can watch the archived version. No setting the VCR, no TIVO, no need to set the DVR. It's always just there waiting for you, whenever you want to watch it. It just sounds so perfect. Apple has a track record of taking emerging mediums and redefining them (not inventing them) with the right kind of user experience. No pressure Apple, but Apple TV is your moment to double down on your record, and the whole world is watching. Apple TV vs Roku vs Hulu may be interesting, but Apple TV vs. Google TV will be the game to watch as 2012 rolls along.