Apple and Amazon vie to reinvent the TV experience. Pay TV operators come willing and passively along for the ride.
Chapter 1: Charter allows subs to use Apple TV, dump STB (1:30)
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.
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.
Chapter 2: Pay TV and vMVPD peers on Apple TV (9:30)
Charter’s Spectrum TV app will sit side-by-side with other apps on the Apple TV, including virtual MVPDs like Hulu Live and Sling TV. How tenable is it for pay TV operators to continue to charge $100 or more for service when vMVPDs cost between $20 and $40 a month?
Two years ago, I talked with operators about ditching their STBs and going with a streaming media player (SMP.) There were two distinct camps: those that absolutely would not do this, and those that were keen to. (You can download the white paper, Owning Input 1, for free from nScreenMedia.com.) Two years later and it looks like the tide is turning in favor of the SMPs.
Both of us agree that two years from now all major operators will have app versions of their service.
Chapter 3: Amazon’s Fire TV Cube designed to own input one too (14:50)
Amazon released a new Alexa-enabled Fire TV box on Thursday called the Cube. The $119.99 box (on sale for $89.99) brings together functionality found in an Echo with SMP functionality found in Fire TV. It also incorporates control of the pay TV experience. However, Amazon did not work directly with operators to do this. The Fire TV Cube incorporates an IR blaster which allows it to control operator STBs and DVRs from Comcast, Dish, DirecTV, Spectrum, Verizon, Cox, Alice, and Frontier.
Using IR blasters to control Pay TV is hardly anything new and has not been particularly successful with consumers. For example, a decade ago, Logitech tried the approach in partnership with Google TV with its very expensive Revue device. The approach bombed with consumers.
Will and I are not very optimistic about Amazon’s approach. Aside from the consumer resistance to IR blasters, using voice to control television still doesn’t feel very effective. Putting an app on a streaming media player seems to deliver a much more integrated solution. It does, however, confer much power on the CE manufacturer. These devices are emerging as the new aggregation platform for television, taking over the role from pay TV operators.