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Apple web-TV service rumoured to launch in autumn

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Apple appears set to vie for control of living room entertainment, with rumours circulating from the Wall Street Journal, suggesting talks are ongoing between the consumer tech giant and several US broadcasters over the launch of a web-TV service which could land as early as September.

Major broadcasters ABC, CBS and Fox, who between them broadcast some of the biggest shows and programming available in the States, are thought to be in talks to provide Apple with channels and programmes for broadcast and on-demand consumption. Consumers of Apple TV in the USA are likely to be the intended recipients at first, although it is thought a successful pilot will result in the service being delivered to iOS users too.

While Apple’s move into web-TV comes as little surprise, one potential hurdle it may face is a convoluted relationship with Comcast, which owns one of the biggest broadcasting networks, NBCUniversal. The WSJ reckons a falling out resulting from a potential TV streaming partnership which never materialised is the root cause, and speculated that NBC channels won’t be, at least for now, involved in any discussions over Apple’s web-TV service.

Fortunately for Apple, the FCC’s recent ruling on net neutrality, universally panned by North American telcos, Comcast included, means that it will benefit from unfettered bandwidth speeds with which to deliver any web-TV service to consumers. ISPs, and especially those also offering television along with its internet services, will be unable by law to throttle the delivery speeds of an Apple-based TV-streaming service. One assumes the rumour of Apple’s TV move is linked to the conclusion of the FCC’s open Internet wrangling.

Considering Apple’s proven ability to drive uptake of products and services among its loyal customer base, North American ISPs will probably be bracing themselves for another wave of data traffic growth. Tim Cook revealed last year that more than 20 million Apple TVs have been sold, and while users of Apple TV are in the most logical position to take up the service, the millions of iOS users across the country are likely to form a significant percentage of the user base.

The price point of any Apple web-TV and on-demand service will be an extremely interesting reveal, however. Attempts from Apple to release an online, streaming only TV service will likely appeal to consumers looking to unchain themselves from existing premium monthly TV subscribership models. Therefore, the price would have to be significantly lower than the estimated $90 per month charged for a full cable TV service in the US.

Meanwhile, Netflix in the US charges roughly $9 per month for its service, with Hulu and Amazon Prime coming in at about $8 and $8.25 per month respectively. Theoretically, consumers could have pretty much every available on-demand streaming service for less than $30 per month combined. According to the WSJ’s source, an Apple web-TV service is likely to come in somewhere between $30 and $40 per month.

Assuming Apple is able to procure the same content as all three of the aforementioned over the top on-demand providers, it would certainly have a compelling proposition considering the addition of live TV broadcast as well. That may be tough, however, considering a number of shows are exclusively tied down to aforementioned OTT content streaming providers for on-demand streaming, such as House of Cards on Netflix or The Walking Dead on Amazon Prime.

While guaranteeing broad appeal of its service to a reasonable user-base, Apple must carefully ensure existing partners for Apple TV, such as Netflix, don’t see the web-TV platform as a direct competitor for the same market share. If Apple were to get it wrong, it could simultaneously miss the mark in terms of customer appeal and also cause fractures in its relationships with channel partners that currently provide a core value proposition for the Apple TV.

One thing that’s increasingly apparent, however, is that content is once again becoming king.

It is thought that Apple’s annual autumn event will announce the launch of its web-TV service. Since the Apple TV hardware hasn’t been updated since 2012, one wouldn’t be surprised to see an Apple TV 4 and streaming service simultaneously announced in a TV-tastic mega-launch.


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