Apple finally gets it shot at reinventing TV

Apple has been angling to take over the TV experience since Steve Jobs claimed to have “cracked it” back in 2011. With the Charter integration with Apple TV, the company finally gets its shot.

Charter to support, promote Apple TV

At its Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose on Tuesday, Apple announced that Charter Communications Spectrum TV subscribers would soon be able to replace the cablers set-top box with an Apple TV. Charter and Apple will work to tightly integrate the Spectrum TV app for Apple TV 4K with Apple’s tvOS. Customers will be able to use Siri voice commands and search for TV shows and on-demand content through the remote.

Charter will offer the Apple TV 4K to its customers in special promotions. Also, Charter will offer Apple phones and tablets to customers when it launches Spectrum Mobile, a wireless service set to debut June 30th.

Zero-sign-in for dual-play Spectrum customers

Spectrum customers that get TV and broadband services from Charter will not need to login to use the Spectrum TV app. Neither will they need to login to use any TV Everywhere app from programming partners. The Apple TV can detect a Spectrum broadband network and automatically authenticate the viewer to use the Spectrum TV app, and apps like HBO Go and Watch HGTV, provided the viewer has the right to view these channels.

Roku provides a similar feature, called single sign-on. However, the pay TV subscriber must enter their operator login credentials once for the first TV Everywhere app they use. After the first login is successful, the subscriber can use any other TV Everywhere app without having to log in again.

A big deal for Apple

Apple has been angling for a way to become part of the TV infrastructure for years. For example, in 2014 it was rumored to be in discussions with Time Warner Cable (purchased by Charter in 2016) to bring the cablers content onto its new Apple TV (second edition.) Nothing came of these discussions. As well, the company has been talking about reinventing the television experience since Steve Jobs claimed to have “cracked it” back in 2011.

The Charter integration finally allows Apple to take control of the television experience. Spectrum TV customers will be able to use the device to watch TV, listen to music, and access any SVOD service, including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. As long as they don’t want to watch a DVD, they need no other device beneath the television.

At $169.99, the 4K Apple TV box is the most expensive streaming media player of the top four steaming media player market share Q1 2018 brands. The Roku Streaming Stick+ offers 4K support for $100 less. Apple TV is also trailing far behind market leaders Roku and Amazon Fire TV. According to data from Parks, Roku’s market share is 37%, Amazon Fire TV’s is 26%, and Apple TV’s is 16%.

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Tim Cook: TV Change is Coming

Apple doesn’t have a solid TV strategy yet. But CEO Tim Cook thinks he can see the writing on the wall—the much loathed cable-TV bundle is on its deathbed.

Speaking on the earnings call after Apple posted a record first quarter, Cook said (emphasis added):
The way that we participate in the changes that are going on in the media industry that I fully expect to accelerate from the cable bundle beginning to break down is, one, we started the new Apple TV a year ago, and we’re pleased with how that platform has come along. We have more things planned for it but it’s come a long way in a year, and it gives us a clear platform to build off of.

Apple is on the fourth generation of the Apple TV. It now has an app that makes recommendations across streaming-video services and has a universal search function; it is currently limited by only allowing you to find a program across a limited selection of third-party services, but it has the potential to become the online equivalent to a TV Guide for all programming. (The company is also developing a library of original content tied to its Apple Music subscription.)

Media experts have been forecasting the death of the traditional TV bundles for years (BTIG Research media analyst Rich Greenfield tweets with the hashtag “#goodluckbundle”)—and it hasn’t happened yet. But there has definitely been some movement, as Cook pointed out.

Popular cable networks like ESPN are losing subscribers because of unbundling, cord-cutting is becoming more common, TV brands like HBO offer their own subscriptions on platforms like Apple TV, and streaming services like Netflix are hitting member records.

So far, bundling hasn’t as yet disappeared in the US. It’s just taken on new forms.

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