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Posted on Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Dave!I'm kind of late to the AppleTV game. Unlike just about every other Apple product, I didn't jump in with AppleTV 1.0 because it was something I simply had to own. For one thing, there just wasn't much content available. For another, it was basically just a big hard drive with video output. Not very compelling considering hard drive space eventually fills up. Or, worst case scenario, the hard drive fails and you lose everything.

But then AppleTV 2.0 came along. It most decidedly wasn't a "hard drive with video output" because it didn't even have a hard drive. It streams everything from the internet, including any television shows you've purchased from the iTunes Store, streaming video from Netflix, Vimeo, and YouTube, streaming photos from Flickr, Podcasts, and even iTunes movie rentals. As if that weren't enough, you can use Apple's "AirPlay" technology to stream video, photos, and music from your computer, iPad, or iPhone.

All in a tiny, tiny little box...

Apple TV

Thanks to Apple's new "iCloud" technology with "iTunes Match," AppleTV is becoming even more useful. Soon you'll be able to stream all your music not from your computer or iOS device, but from the internet. I am hopeful that eventually digital movies you purchase will also be able to be streamed.

What Steve Jobs once described as "just a hobby" is quickly becoming a core Apple device as it matures.

And, apparently, the game isn't over yet.

The internet is abuzz with juicy details coming from the Steve Jobs biography about his plans for an actual Apple Television. As told to biographer Walter Isaacson, Jobs said "I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use. It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it."

Just one look at Job's philosophy for remote design should explain exactly why this is such a tantilizing prospect...

My Logitech "Harmony One" remote on the left, AppleTV remote on the right.

I, for one, welcome our new television overlords.

First of all, I'm excited about the idea of just paying for what I want to watch. Right now, if you have cable or satellite television, that's not an option. You purchase "bundles" of channels that includes crap you may never want to watch. For example, I have an "Expanded Basic" package bundle so I can watch Food TV, USA Network, and some other channels I enjoy from time to time. But that same package also includes stupid shit that I would NEVER want to watch (like FOX "News") but I pay for it anyway because I don't have an option to remove it from my bundle. The cable company controls where the money goes, not the consumer. If Apple's plans for television change this, I would be thrilled not having my hard-earned dollars going to support crap I hate.

Second of all, I really like the idea of not having to pay for shows when there's nothing new being produced. In other words, I don't want to pay to watch reruns. Now when you purchase a show via the iTunes Store, you can re-watch it as often as you want on any of your Apple devices at no charge. You've already paid for it, and you don't have to pay again.

Thirdly, I am really, really freaking out over a the business model which could arise from all this. Rather than advertisers paying networks to pay studios to pay for television content, you'd just pay the studios directly. Voilà, no more having your TV shows interrupted by annoying ads.

But the biggest bonus of all? Apple could take down the whole television network system.

Think about that for a second.

Let the ramifications of that really settle into your brain.

No longer will networks control what shows make it to air... which shows are renewed... which shows are canceled. Consumer purchases decide! Sure Apple is going to get a cut of the money that studios take in, but you're purchasing from the studios directly, so the majority of the purchase price goes to the people producing the content. All of a sudden, the fate of amazing shows like Veronica Mars aren't being sabotaged by network execs who require a massive profit margin so they can get paid to sit on their stupid asses and ruin television. The studio either gets enough money to produce the show and continue doing so... or they don't get enough money and the show is canceled. And I'd like to thank that it would be more profitable for them with only one middle-man in the mix (Apple) instead of the dozens of greedy assholes with their finger in the pie now. Suddenly, smaller shows and smaller studios actually have a chance at survival. Instead of competing against stupid reality show juggernauts and network money-makers for ad revenue, they instead compete for viewers directly.

This will require a radical shift in how television is produced, but I think it will be worth it. Perhaps television networks can reinvent themselves as television investors or something... I don't know. All I do know is that putting the consumer in control of the shows they want to watch and giving control of the content back to content producers is a very good thing.

Though there are many problems to address. How does a new show get noticed? Maybe by giving the first episode away for free? Perhaps Apple's "Genius" technology can be used to recommend shows you might like based on what you watch. And how are advertisers going sell their shit? Well, maybe through sponsorships. Choose to watch an ad, and maybe you get the television show for free for your trouble. Consumers get to decide how to spend their time and money. And when they do decide to watch an ad, they can get ads tailored to them so advertisers are getting the most for their money too. Win-Win.

Not that there won't be losers, but there are always losers.

So long as I win in the end, I'm okay with that. Ask consumers, and they'll probably agree.

But a part of me thinks there will be a lot of other winners if this plays out the way it should. Technology can not only be used to deliver a better experience for television viewers, but for advertisers and content providers as well.

I want my Apple Television! It's long overdue.

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Categories: Apple Stuff 2011, Television 2011Click To It: Permalink


  1. Ren says:

    I’m happy with my AppleTV 2.0 and will probably get another one at some point (patiently waiting for a 1080p update). For now, though, I’m happier with my TiVo + antenna. That being said, they are complementary devices. In particular, I use iTiVo on my Mac to (automatically) copy recordings from the TiVo to iTunes for later viewing on my iPad. Such shows are also easily viewable from the AppleTV, which means I am perfectly happy to delete them from the TiVo.

  2. While it looks a bit daunting, I must say I love my Logitech Harmony remote. Not that we really watch much TV these days but the idea of a fully fledged Apple Television as described in that article really intrigues me. To no end.

  3. Don says:

    and when Apple integrates Siri with their TV & iCloud then the magic happens. “TV find 30 Rock!”

  4. the muskrat says:

    I would love to see this. I don’t watch much TV, so I hate paying for a non a la carte pricing plan!

  5. Kirsten says:

    This sounds brilliant. I hope the people at Apple can carry on with Steve Jobs’ vision without mucking it up. A remote control that has only the buttons I need? Awesome!

    As for how this business model would work in the corporate world, I think we’re already seeing some of that on web series. Grass roots efforts to get the word out always works, and shows could attract more sponsors as time goes by. The Guild comes to mind – they’re sponsored by The Evil Empire, so new episodes are available on the Empire’s game console first, then 2 days later on Bing, and there’s one short ad before each episode, but it’s allowed them to go from not budget to a much larger budget. It’s hugely popular now. I’d love to see regular television go to a model similar to that.

  6. The bandwidth providers will win too. If we’re eating up all that data we’re going over our DSL and Cable Modem data plans.

    My iPhone iCloud backup (no match) is 2 GB-ish (and that’s with some of my syncing items turned off), I’m not sure if when it backs up to the cloud it’s doing the whole thing every night (or just updates), but if it is, that’s over a third of my DSL data plan. Regardless this whole thing is using up significantly more of our data plans (factor in photostream syncing too). And I’ll willing to pay for the data.

    I agree with you, this will make TV interesting, and if they make it easy enough this will be incredible.

    I’m willing to watch advertising. If that means charging less, I’ll give them a full detailed profile of what topics I’m interested and my age and income. Give me ads I’m interested in!

    I want commercials for more shows I might be interested in, movies, music and more. Pandora does a great job at suggesting music for me, get them to do TV and movies too.

    A click on my remote for something I like and you’ll send a coupon to my printer (better yet, my phone). And if I dislike something enough times, they’ll stop advertising it.

    I’ll pay for it Apple, please take more of my money 🙂

  7. Christopher Stogdill says:

    The only problem I see is that the Actor’s Guild is going to be up in arms over this. They wouldn’t get residuals for people watching re-runs, only first-time viewers.

    • Dave2 says:

      You’re probably right.

      But if I buy a book, I don’t have to pay the author for any subsequent readings, so I’m not sure if I should be sympathetic or not.

      Perhaps actors will be consoled by the fact that their job may last quite a bit longer since their show won’t be subject to the whims of a network, and they can keep going so long as people enjoy their work enough to pay for it. Or perhaps they get a bigger up-front payment for their work since royalties are going away. I dunno. But since shows can survive (or even thrive) with a smaller number of viewers, I can’t help but think this will ultimately be a good thing for the actors as well?

  8. Avitable says:

    I got Apple TV 1.0, which was great until it just died about a year and a half after I got it. Still have no idea why, but that’s frustrating.

    I think I’ll get 2.0, though, because I do like the functionality and it seems good for what I need. My concern with an actual Apple TV, though, would be all the extra bells and whistles. Sometimes I want to get away from my computer and just watch a show, without having any idea if I’m getting email or tweets or anything else, and I think that is not the direction in which we’re heading.

  9. Megan says:

    This scenario would make me blissfully happy. I could watch exactly what I wanted, when I wanted and only pay for what I use. Perfect.

    Make it so, Apple!

  10. walt says:

    My kids, ages 14 and 12 only watch internet based programming these days. They could care less about what is on cable. They spend all their time on youtube and other sites for shows. I really think if Apple doesn’t do it someone else will. It’s the future and even the networks are gearing up for it. In 2008, I sat down with an NBC exec and we briefly talked about where NBC is heading. The big four want out of the FCC game for sure.

    It only makes sense, Family Guy was saved by DVD sales. Pay for what you want is the way to go no matter what format you receive it. I think it’s becoming such a part of our kids norm, they are just going to create more demand. Actors can fight it all they want, they will just fall out of favor for those readily able to step in.

  11. martymankins says:

    The only negative to this most excellent write up and plan is the fucking bandwidth caps all ISPs place on everyone.

    Cable TV plans are so much. We have the basic of basic and even it was approaching $20 plus tax. That and our Comcast Internet were more than $70 a month. Cheap compared to the $100+ an average household pays for just TV.

    The a la carte approach is something I will always support.

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