Apple finally released an update to the Apple TV.
And, at the risk of being hyperbolic, it has the potential to change everything about the TV industry.
The new Apple TV will be more powerful, feature a better remote, and open itself up to apps from third-party developers.
If developers take to the Apple TV the way they’ve taken to the iPhone, then TV as we know will be upended.
The fundamental challenge with changing TV right now is the “input” problem.
Every TV has a primary input, normally used for traditional, linear, pay-TV services. The second input has always had the accessories. A long time ago, it was a VCR, then it was a DVD player, and now it’s a streaming box like Roku or Apple TV.
To get to that second input means digging up the TV remote, which is always a different remote from the cable remote, and it’s always hard to find. Then you have to find the remote for the streaming box, which is also often MIA when you need it.
It’s a pain in the butt, but the Apple TV could change all that. It could take over the primary input if the apps are right.
The Apple TV could, to paraphrase analyst Benedict Evans, turn your TV into a dumb piece of glass. It would just be a monitor displaying whatever’s on the Apple TV. And, since the Apple TV is only $150, it won’t be too expensive to upgrade it every few years, keeping the same TV in place for years.
The timing for this sort of thing is perfect.
On Netflix’s last earnings call, CEO Reed Hastings said the following:
Linear TV has been on an amazing 50-year run. Internet TV is starting to grow. Clearly over the next 20 years internet TV is going to replace linear TV.And so I think everyone is scrambling to figure out how do they do great apps, how do they [do] things like Noggin, which are fantastic. That will just keep getting built up and so it’s a transition into figuring out the internet. And the way people do that is to get involved with us, with our competitors to try to start to learn what are the new patterns and modalities because internet TV is the way that people will consume video in the future.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, when introducing Apple TV, said, “We believe the future of television is apps.”
He went on to say that 60% of video streaming is done on an Apple device, and 100% of that streaming is through an app. He says apps provide a better experience.
Netflix, Amazon, HBO, Hulu, and many other companies provide app-based video streaming. Companies like BuzzFeed and Vice are digital-first companies that are cracking video. Presumably, they’ll have apps on the Apple TV. Then there’s YouTube and Sling TV, which does streaming of a variety of traditional TV channels.
And that’s just the starting point. Startups galore are going to work on video experiences for the Apple TV.
If the platform works, then the traditional cable box will be relegated to the second input. And if it’s relegated to that, then people will eventually start to wonder why they’re even wasting their money on pay TV.
And when they start doing that, TV as we’ve known will be over.