Sports Programming Will Not Be Part of Apple TV
We're not into rumor mongering like countless others who have been wrong about what Apple TV will be and when it will come out for the last year-plus. After all, this is a product that, as far as we know, doesn't even exist.
All we can do -- unless we get a real scoop from a real source -- is speculate. Creative speculation often yields the most relevant insights. I love speculation. Kicking ideas back and forth around the water cooler that is the stock market.
TheStreet's Carlton Wilkinson wrote a nice piece last week: Apple TV: The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of .
I addressed C's take in Is 2013 the end of Apple?
And Dana Blankenhorn kept the hits coming with Monday's Sports Opens Door For Apple TV .
If I read Dana right, he thinks Apple has the physical incarnation of Apple TV in the bag. I don't agree.
He believes the real focus as Tim Cook prepares to roll this thing out is on negotiations with content owners for the right to offer unbundled programming. Dana reckons Apple can convince cable companies and content owners to do what so many consumers dream of -- unbundle their programming and offer it a la carte via Apple TV.
Apple already does that via iTunes.
However, it's not all that different from Netflix (NFLX) in this regard.
The major similarity: Apple remains at the mercy of the major programmers; Hollywood only gives Cupertino access to a limited lineup. The most sought-after programming doesn't see the light of day on iTunes or Netflix; it only makes it to Hulu Plus and the programmers own disparate TV Everywhere ventures.
The big difference: Programmers like Apple more because it charges a premium for the content it gets. That's why it receives so many new releases.
For example, you can already watch the final episode of the Nickelodeon hit iCarly on iTunes, but it will cost you:
Do the math. Even if you only watch moderate amounts of television, cable looks like a bargain compared to paying $4 for one episode of iCarly ($5 in HD) or $20 for standard definition, $30 for high def for the entire sixth season.
One $4 episode per night (delayed by several days) turns into $28 a week, which turns into $112 a month. In this situation, cable becomes a sweet deal.
There's absolutely no incentive for programmers to give Apple much more. Again, it's very similar to the Netflix relationship in theory. And there's even less incentive for consumers to use iTunes/Apple TV to cobble together a viewing schedule that would end up being more expensive than the sum of its parts as traditionally conceived.