Apple TV has changed the rules. Again.
So, in the end it wasn’t the revolutionary moment that “changed everything” for TV.
Playing the role of warm-up act to the latest iPad, Apple TV modestly revealed evolutionary changes hidden within the same plug-and-play black box - with no change in price.
Most significant though, is the deep integration of subscription film service Netflix.
Third-party services on platforms and devices aren’t new, of course; connected TVs, PS3s and XBoxes have been delivering services like LoveFilm, Netflix and BBC iPlayer for years. Similarly, each of those services has launched apps on Apple’s iPhone and iPad, so you’d be forgiven for asking what’s new with Netflix on Apple TV.
But Apple has changed the rules. Again.
As it’s done previously with music (iTunes), with apps (App Store) - and most recently with publications (Newstand), Apple has shrewdly secured its place in the value chain by offering the ability to sign-up for a Netflix account directly from Apple TV, using iTunes for payment - a financial arrangement that will no doubt remain between the partners.
Finally, the availability of live Major League Baseball games directly through Apple TV, suggests that Apple might just have the financial clout and game-changing mindset to force a rethink in broadcasting’s sports rights model.
While rights-holders have dabbled with direct services on the web for years, technology has always challenged the delivery of a quality experience. But technology is no longer a barrier - and services such as Apple TV present a genuine opportunity for rights-holders to go direct to consumer and deliver a true TV-quality experience. Even though Apple and others might demand a cut, this may be a palatable, profitable arrangement.
There is a precedent, of course. It’s worth winding back to 1992 and remembering how BSkyB’s rapid growth was by the acquisition of Premier League football rights - so much so that Rupert Murdoch held the deal up as a “battering ram” for pay-TV expansion.
Would Apple want to forge this bullish path for connected TV?