In Hacker News discussion "TV will be Apple's Undoing"
TV won't be Apple's undoing but it also isn't obvious that they can win big there.
It is a complicated business with a number of interlocking players at different levels and vested business interests. It is also a global business with rights packaged up at a very national level and sold with exclusive deals.
While the biggest MSO's in each country (cable, satellite and terrestrial operators depending on the market) have the scale to lock in key content/channels to exclusive deals it will be fairly hard to break into the market in a devastating way. At the moment they have the scale and the revenues to do exclusive deals with the content creators (that they don't already own) to keep a large proportion of their customers from leaving. They (not the content creators/owners) are the big bullies in the market and would be hard and expensive to topple.
An AppleTV (including screen) if it does happen will need to be a good enough content offer for most people or it will not be a massive success. If they still have to use their cable box it can't be a game changing user interface because you are looking at the STB interface most of the time.
It's not impossible for Apple but it also won't be easy, particularly to go global. It will cost money to get content which might break Apple's principles and set a bad precedents for them. They also can't go that expensive because while I'm sure the UI will be better Samsung/Sony and some of the others really aren't that bad and the cosmetic designs don't leave that much room for minimalist improvement.
The business case for Apple is far from clear for me at this point but it would be a way to take the war to Samsung that would cost Samsung far more than a billion dollars even for an Apple relative flop. The collateral damage might kill Sharp unless they supplied the panels and would be another knife in Sony/Panasonic/Toshiba that they could do without.
batista > Funny, the said the exact same thing about mobile...
Nearly true but I think the situations are really different - the rights packaged up and sold with exclusive deals didn't apply in a relevant way and there wasn't the same level of complexity.
Carriers were essentially indistinguishable from a customer viewpoint. There was no significantly different content depending on which carrier you used or at least nothing that you would care about if you had an iPhone. This does not apply between broadcast platforms. The exclusive deals any carriers had for content were small scale apps or information services not multi-billion deals for packages of content for particular countries.
Apple played divide and rule between the carriers brilliantly working with a single operator in each country. In some countries that might work for TV where there are well balanced alternative platforms but in others it won't work because there is a dominant player who won't give up control and the challengers are too weak to help Apple much.
In TV there are the content originators (movie studios, sports leagues, independent production companies), one level of aggregators that commission and purchase from the originators and bundle it into channels and another level of aggregation by the service/delivery/billing platforms (MSOs). And then it is sold to the customer. These divisions are not clear and ownerships ofter cross levels.
In mobile it was fairly simple with carriers being the clear centre of the business, buying and subsidising phones and running the infrastructure. There were a couple of platforms running across different phones such as BREW and JavaME but they were more feature tickboxes than major market players.
This doesn't mean it was easy for Apple but the fact they had at the time a truly revolutionary product and reality distorting leader AND there was level competition between the carriers meant that they could pull off an amazing industry changing deal. They had to pull off this deal once in each country not with dozens of different rights holding players (they don't need them all but one deal per country would only be enough with the dominant MSO and probably wouldn't be on good terms as the MSO would know that there is a risk that Apple would want to cut them out when they were big enough).
I also didn't say that it was impossible for Apple to break into the TV market in a massive way but I certainly don't think it is easy or that there is a clear route to massive success. I certainly don't believe it is possible at their current margin levels for either hardware or content but it will be interesting to watch.
I used to do what was really a Business Development and Product Planning role for Sony's European TV Business so I have met with many cable, and a few terrestrial and satellite operators in Europe to persuade them to make their content available over their networks to consumers TVs with CI+ (think European CableCard but not quite such a broken model). Later I worked with many channel operators to bring them onto Sony's Internet TV platform so I do have some understanding of the TV business.