By Sahil Patel
Apple wants to throw its hat in the internet-TV ring.
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, the company is in discussions with a group of media companies to launch a “skinny” internet pay-TV service, which would offer roughly 25 channels for $30–40 per month. This service would be available across Apple devices powered by its iOS operating system, including the Apple TV, iPhones, and iPads.
So far, Apple has met with Disney, CBS, and 21st Century Fox, among other programmers, to offer broadcast channels like ABC, CBS, and Fox, as well as premium cable channels like ESPN and FX. Interestingly enough, the report adds that the plans currently don’t include NBCUniversal, which is due to a falling-out Comcast (which owns NBCUniversal) had with Apple last year.
Apple hopes to announce the service in June and launch it in September, at which point it would join a market that’s getting increasingly crowded. Already this year, Dish has launched Sling TV, which offers a core $20 channel package that includes AMC and ESPN, Sony has unveiled PlayStation Vue, which is a near-replica of what consumers already get from existing cable and satellite TV providers, and Verizon has moved forward with its own mobile-first TV service, securing a deal with AwesomenessTV to launch two over-the-top channels.
Like others, Apple TV’s service would target (typically younger) viewers collectively known as “cord-cutters” or “cord-nevers” — those who don’t have the desire to pay $90 or more for hundreds of channels.
This is not the first time Apple has been linked to the TV business. Insiders have long believed that the company would eventually make a TV play, with optimists hoping that it could revolutionize the industry much like what Apple has already done to the music business.
To date, though, Apple’s TV play has been far more sober. Its business has been limited to the Apple TV set-top, which offers a collection of video apps from TV programmers and digital media companies — nothing revolutionary.
That could be changing. Last week, HBO announced that Apple would be the exclusive digital distribution partner for its long-awaited standalone streaming service HBO Now. At the same time, Apple said it was slashing prices for the Apple TV to $69. To many, that suggested Apple had something else in play for the Apple TV, and wanted to incentivize more people to purchase the internet-connected set-top box. If WSJ’s projections for Apple’s internet-TV service holds, we now know what that is.