Is Apple Building a TV?

At an All Things D conference a few years ago, Steve Jobs noted that there was just no way to “go to market” for an Apple TV set top box. That’s why Apple TV remains “a hobby.” Sales have increased since the release of the 3rd generation model, but are still quite small. But now Jeffies & Co. thinks a full-fledged Apple TV set is “in full production.”


Recent data out of Sharp, Hon Hai, and other specialty chemical and TV component suppliers support this. Also, JDSU noted that they have a new non-gaming customer for its gesture control modules. They indicated this is a new “living room” based customer. We believe Apple will leverage AT&T’s and Verizon’s content deals for the iTV. Additionally, the WSJ’s sources indicate Apple may also consider a set-top box version for the cable operators.

I’m unconvinced. That go-to-market problem still exists, according to today’s Wall Street Journal:

Plenty of hurdles remain. Apple doesn’t appear to have any deals with operators to sell the device and getting them on board is likely to be challenging. The relationship between Apple, cable companies and content owners remains tense. Apple has tried repeatedly over the past few years to persuade entertainment companies to grant it rights for various kinds of TV offerings, with limited success.

In the past, however, Apple was trying to change the existing pay TV system by, for instance, offering individual rentals of TV show episodes, which TV companies feared could undercut their business models. Apple’s current plan involves a less radical path than past ideas the company has contemplated. Still, some in the entertainment industry may fear that letting Apple establish any kind of a foothold in television could give the tech giant more power longer term.


The cable operators don’t want Apple taking any of their monthly fees. And the content producers don’t want to end up in the same position as the record labels. And I don’t see how offering a TV set — even a super nice Apple TV set — will change any hearts or minds in the cable industry or at the TV networks.

Apple got an historic in into the wireless industry, because AT&T was desperate for a hit and willing to agree to Apple’s terms. Is Time-Warner in that position today? Is CBS?


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