This article was first published on Technorati as “Why The TV Networks Need To Jump On The Apple TV Bandwagon.”
Earlier this month at the latest Apple Keynote, Steve Jobs unveiled the latest and greatest of all things Apple. By the end of the hour and a half presentation, there was much to talk about: The newly launched Game Center, a new lineup of iPods, a new iOS release, (two in fact), Apple’s venture into social networking, and Apple TV.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am an Apple Fanboy. Make of that what you will; I’ve been called worse things. Putting that aside for now, watching Jobs talk about Apple TV was really entertaining. I say “entertaining” for one reason. Remember back in June during Antennagate? No doubt Jobs is a visionary, but he has difficulty admitting when he is wrong. When news of the iPhone 4 “death grip” surfaced within hours of the release, the initial “solution” offered by Jobs was don’t hold it that way. (FYI not the world’s greatest PR move.) So when I saw him publicly talk about an Apple product that has not seen much success since its 2006 launch and admit its shortcomings openly and honestly, my mouth dropped a little. I guess that’s called growing up. Baby steps, Steve. Baby steps.
Aside from its newer, more compact design, the big shift in Apple TV is that everything now has a lower price point, including the device itself. Once a $200 purchase, Apple has dropped it to $99. As for content? Gone are the days of renting TV shows for $2.99. The price now, 99¢ per episode. You can usually get a small discount purchasing a season pass for your favorite shows.
The only problem is that currently the only studios that have signed on with Apple are ABC and Fox. Other studios, including Warner Brothers believe that offering up content for 99¢ is too cheap and have refused to join Apple. Warner Brothers CEO Barry Meyer believes it would hurt Warner’s bottom line. When I saw that comment, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Let’s think about this a second. I realize we aren’t all there yet, but the way we watch (and pay for) content is changing. Many of us have stopped paying for content altogether in favor of online alternatives like Hulu, Surf The Channel, and Sidereel. All of them, by the way are free and without commercials. Thanks to these online options and being able to watch shows on my schedule, I have not only lost track of what nights my favorite shows air, but even the network that airs them.
So while I’m sure Warner Brothers, NBC, CBS and other major networks are crying over the potential for lost revenue if they offer their content on Apple TV for less, they’re certainly not doing themselves any favors by doing so. The fact that the rental model works at all with the existence of these alternatives is surprising, but it does so in part because these alternatives are less understood and potentially confusing to many users, a confusion that I believe will dissipate over time.
By all appearances, Fox and ABC are aware that the digital shift is happening. Rather than complaining about having to slash the cost of their content, they’re being smart. If nothing else, their agreement with Apple shows that they appreciate that segment of their audience still willing to pay for their content at all, if for no other reason than the simplicity of its delivery.
“We think the rest of the studios will see the light and get on board pretty fast with us,” said Jobs at the Keynote.
For their sake, I hope he’s right.