Coverage: TV wars
As more viewers are cutting ties with cable and moving to streaming television and movies, companies are scrambling to capture their attention (and the associated ad dollars.) There were several content deals recently, and taken all together they show an industry in flux.
The first story is about mighty Apple, which just seems to win whatever battle it decides to take on. The Wall Street Journal had this story by Keach Hagey, Shalini Ramachandran and Daisuke Wakabayashi:
Apple Inc.’s lofty plans to build an online television service are coming into sharper focus.
The technology giant is in talks with programmers to offer a slimmed-down bundle of TV networks this fall, according to people familiar with the matter. The service would have about 25 channels, anchored by broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and Fox and would be available on Apple devices such as the Apple TV, they said.
For now, the talks don’t involve NBCUniversal, owner of the NBC broadcast network and cable channels like USA and Bravo, because of a falling-out between Apple and NBCUniversal parent company Comcast Corp., the people familiar with the matter said.
Apple and Comcast were in talks as recently as last year about working together on a streaming television platform that would combine Apple’s expertise in user interfaces with Comcast’s strength in broadband delivery. Apple came to believe that Comcast was stringing it along while the cable giant focused on its own X1 Web-enabled set-top box, the people said. One media executive said it may be difficult for Apple to launch a service without NBCUniversal channels.
Citing the Journal story, CNET’s Steven Musil pointed out that Apple was struggling with TV:
Apple has hinted for quite some time that it’s working on a more complete, over-the-top video streaming service. However, there have been no signs such a product is close to ready, which largely has been attributed to difficulties securing content deals at reasonable rates.
“TV is a hard problem to solve,” Eddy Cue, Apple senior vice president of Internet software and services, said in May. “One of the problems you have with a TV is you have a disparate system with a bunch of providers. There’s no standards. There’s a lot of rights issues.”
Investor’s Business Daily story by Ed Carson detailed the partners and who was going to likely be excluded from the service:
The monthly fee could be $30-$40 a month, media executives told the Journal.
Apple last week announced that Apple TV would be the exclusive digital streaming launch partner for Time Warner’s (NYSE:TWX) HBO Now streaming service starting next month. (Cablevision (NYSE:CVC) on Monday became the first cable partner for the HBO Now service.) Apple also cut the price of the Apple TV box to $69 from $99.
NBC, for now, isn’t scheduled to part of the service, because talks broken between Apple and NBC parent and cable giant Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), according to the report.
Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) recently launched SlingTV, a skinny streaming service that starts at $20 a month for 20 channels, including ESPN, AMC Networks (NASDAQ:AMCX), TNT and Food Network. Additional channels are available for slightly higher rates — but no broadcast channels. The service also doesn’t let viewers record programs.
Apple wants to have a large on-demand cloud service, with a big library of content including past seasons, the WSJ said.
Sony (NYSE:SNE) plans on offering its own streaming service soon, the Journal reported last week.
But not to be outdone, Cablevision is looking to offer HBO Now, coveted content, Emily Steel wrote for The New York Times:
Cablevision said on Monday that it would offer HBO’s new Internet streaming service, HBO Now, becoming the first cable provider to announce plans to distribute the service, which does not require a traditional TV subscription.
HBO Now, which will offer all of HBO’s original programming, will make its debut in early April, coinciding with the start of the new season of “Game of Thrones.” Cablevision said it would provide pricing and other details in the coming weeks.
HBO unveiled the service last week at an Apple product event, during which the companies highlighted Apple’s exclusive early distribution of the new service. That agreement with Apple will last three months and applies only to other digital outlets — not the traditional cable, satellite and telecom companies that sell HBO as part of television bundles. Through Apple, HBO Now will cost $15 a month.
Some traditional distributors have been receptive to the new service but others have resisted, HBO executives said last week. The service represents a broader transformation in the television business, as it is intended to attract the rising number of people who watch television via streaming.
As TV content increasingly moves online and on-demand, companies from hardware providers to traditional media will need to figure out their models in order to best capture customers. It also means those buying ads will need to rethink how they spend money and diversify across options.