WSJ Says Apple's Trying to Kill the Cable Industry

Here's something mysterious: amid the WSJ's report on Tim Cook's ascension, they say Apple's "working on new technology to deliver video to televisions, and has been discussing whether to try to launch a subscription TV service." That could be huge.

The claim is tied to ye olde "people familiar with the matter," but this particular anonymously cited rumor makes sense—and could be mammoth. As the WSJ points out, Apple doesn't like the current state of TV:

Mr. Jobs often criticizes, in public and private, the experience of watching TV as clumsy and bad for consumers. But he has said the existing system, where consumers get content from different cable and satellite providers that use different technologies, makes it difficult to innovate."

Ergo, Apple TV. Ergo, iCloud. New ways to take video content and stick them where you want—completely bypassing your cable box (and company renting it to you).

Now, let's be clear: we still adamantly believe this "new technology to deliver video to televisions" is not the unicorn-status Apple HDTV. Stop thinking about that rumor.

What this could mean is an offensive against the cable industry akin to Apple's complete conquest over the music industry. A "subscription TV service," given successful licensing wrangling (a herculean task, we admit) could give us what we want from traditional cable TV: the stations we want, and only those stations. Imagine your Apple TV completely replacing your cable box—scroll through a list of networks, select the ones you want, and pay for them monthly. Their programming available on demand. Their live broadcasts, streamed. True internet TV. All the convenience of a DVR, all the vastness of a regular cable box, and all the sophisticated pleasure of an Apple TV.

It's a logical next step, and could kill cable—and who needs to fix what can be killed? But at the very least, it'll put some much needed and long overdue pressure on the dinosaur cable companies to actually do something. Anything. Apple as a legitimate competitor, even without a full hand of licensing deals, could be the oomph needed for serious cable reform. And that would almost be just as good.

Now, we can't overstate the difficulty of these licensing deals. It took Jobs himself years to beat major record labels into $0.99 submission—dealing with every cable network under the sun will be even harder, WSJ explains:

"They just don't have the deals yet," said Richard Doherty, an analyst at the Envisioneering Group. Mr. Doherty likens Apple's attempt to change the TV business model to "pushing this giant marshmallow uphill." TV, with myriad rights holders and cable and satellite companies to reckon with, is "light years" tougher to transform than the music industry, he said.

So this could be Tim Cook's first grand challenge—if these anonymous sources are correct. We hope they are, and we hope Tim prevails. [WSJ]


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