Just days after Apple filed an FCC document for a new-and-improved Apple TV, Bloomberg News on Friday reported that the Cupertino, Calif.-based company is in negotiations to introduce HBO content to its media streaming device via HBO’s media application HBO Go.
Citing “two people familiar with the plans,” Bloomberg said that Apple has met with Time Warner Inc., the parent company of HBO, to bring HBO content to Apple TV “by mid-2013.”
“Cable and satellite subscribers who pay for HBO will be able to watch more than 600 hours of films and television shows on Apple TV, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private,” Bloomberg reported.
While Apple TV already has a relatively strong lineup of other streaming TV services, including Hulu Plus, Netflix, YouTube and of course iTunes, HBO Go would give Apple a major one up on its stiffening competition, including set-top rivals like Roku, Boxee and now even Microsoft’s Xbox 360. With more and more media streaming devices on the horizon, including the highly anticipated Steam Box from Valve, Apple needs to distance itself from its competitors with superior content.
By opening up a channel for HBO Go, not only will an increasing number of Apple TV customers want to subscribe to HBO, but Apple TV will be significantly strengthened as well, given how HBO’s content, which is known for its award-winning documentaries, films and TV series, aligns well with Apple’s penchant for all things premium.
If Apple is successful in landing a deal for HBO Go, it could find renewed confidence to make more deals with Time Warner Inc. and several other service providers like it to introduce a broader solution to television, one that’s been talked about for some time.
Could HBO Go Pave The Way For Apple’s Television Set?
"[Television is] a market that we have intense interest in, and it's a market that we see that has been left behind," Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a recent interview with "Rock Center's" Brian Williams. “I used to watch 'The Jetsons' as a kid. I love 'The Jetsons.' We're living 'The Jetsons' with this," Cook said in the interview. "It's an area of intense interest. I can't say more than that."
The Apple-made television has been discussed ever since the release of Steve Jobs' biography last November, in which author Walter Isaacson revealed Jobs' intentions to reimagine the television set in the same way his company had revolutionized the personal computer, the music player and the telephone. Shortly before his death in October 2011, Jobs uttered four exciting words to his biographer: "I finally cracked it."
Since then, analysts and Apple fans cannot stop speculating about the Apple-made television set -- when it will be released, how much it will cost, but most importantly, just how revolutionary an experience it will be.
But here’s an idea: What if the Apple TV experience Steve Jobs imagined isn’t a piece of hardware at all, but rather a major accomplishment in software. In the same way iTunes revolutionized music, Apple TV can revolutionize television without actually manufacturing displays.
Apple’s alleged negotiations with Time Warner could continue further if Apple wanted to introduce the rumored, revolutionary “a la carte TV” experience on Apple TV, which would essentially let TV users buy specific channels they want to watch, tapping into individual cable or satellite providers to customize your TV experience around your tastes, rather than own an entire spectrum of hundreds of channels you’ll probably never view once.
To pull off an experience like this, Apple would need to strike major deals with all of the big cable and satellite companies, or possibly even the companies that own the TV channels themselves. Either way, without Steve Jobs -- Apple’s master negotiator -- Apple will have a difficult time getting TV companies to sign up for this unique service, which certainly will have a multitude of consequences on TV content providers.
"I'd like to create an integrated television set that is completely easy to use," Jobs told his biographer Isaacson. "It would be seamlessly synced with all of your devices and with iCloud. It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine."
Analysts like Gene Munster originally pegged an Apple “iTV” release in 2012, but considering the complicated processes required to pull off a project like this, Apple will probably not deliver this kind of TV experience until 2014 at the earliest. Two or three years down the line seems far more likely, especially considering that Apple would first need the proper companies and services to sign on to this project before releasing it to the public, in the same way the original iPhone took quite some time to get FCC and carrier approval before its introduction in 2007.