Apple TV launch delayed; problems securing licensing


AppleAs we have stated, to launch the Apple TV and make it the offering that many are expecting, Apple needs to get quite a bit of licensing and technical deals in place. Easier said than done–Apple has been working since 2005 to reinvent TV viewing. MSOs have released apps for the iPhone and iPad to allow customers to watch television on their mobile devices, but that’s as far as it has gotten so far.

Designing it may prove easy compared with convincing media and cable companies to loosen their grip on the television industry, reports Bloomberg, which also said that in recent negotiations, the main stumbling blocks with cable companies have included a tussle for control over the software that determines the screen interface–the look and feel of the viewer’s experience.

Apple and cable providers have also disagreed on whether a new Apple TV set-top box should be sold directly to customers or leased through cable providers, said the story.

So far, Apple’s television effort has been limited to the $99 Apple TV, a small box that streams movies, shows and other content from the Web. Unlike set-top devices from cable providers, it doesn’t deliver live broadcasts or record shows.

Apple is vying with the likes of Google, Microsoft and to make TVs the digital hub of people’s lives. Whoever wins must first strike deals with media companies or cable providers who have little incentive to cede valuable revenue streams. The result: Apple won’t be releasing a new TV product this year, as analysts had predicted, a person familiar with the company’s plans told Bloomberg.

Unlike successful negotiations with music companies and book publishers, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs regularly told Apple executives that unless the company can get more content, especially live broadcasting, Apple’s impact on television wouldn’t be disruptive.

CBS CEO Les Moonves said in a public appearance last year that he, for one,  has rejected different Apple TV proposals.

Following Jobs’s death, much of the responsibility for securing content deals has fallen to Eddy Cue, the senior vice president in charge of iTunes.

In some of its most recent negotiations, Apple has focused on cable companies that would give it access to live broadcasting without needing new content agreements. Under such a deal, Apple would release a new product for customers to access their set of channels, paid with a cable subscription, instead of leasing a set-top box from pay-TV operators for a monthly fee. Apple may also lease the boxes through cable companies the story said. The box would be Internet-connected, similar to Comcast’s new X1 interface, which is available in Boston, Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia.

See the Bloomberg story here

RBR-TVBR observation: One of Apple TV’s biggest features will be voice commands for everything it does. That is not a unique technology and other TV manufacturers (and likely set-top box makers/MSOs) will be rolling out voice command in lock step with Apple—if not before. MSOs and media companies are not very enthusiastic about the prospect of Apple creating a better user interface than their own set-top boxes, so money will likely have to do the talking before they allow Apple to jump into their pond this deeply.