Apple guide: Skating to where the TV puck is going to be
Any TV guide sufficiently usable is indistinguishable from programming.
Apple has been pursuing programming deals for the Apple TV project for years, and without much success. Hollywood is a dinosaur that may require the leadership equivalent of an extinction-level event before it fully gets on board with the future of on-demand, internet programming. And we don’t have that kind of time. That’s what makes the idea of an Apple TV guide so intriguing.
Apple has started talking to TV programmers and other video companies about creating a digital TV guide that would work on both Apple TV boxes and other Apple devices, like iPhones.
The idea is to let users see what kind of programming is available in video apps made by the likes of HBO, Netflix and ESPN, without having to open up each app individually, and to play shows and movies with a single click.
That is: Apple’s guide would tell you what’s on TV. Except now TV is apps.
Under previous strategies, Apple would have licensed either full-on programming or a “skinny bundle” of the best channels and offered them to Apple TV owners for about $30 a month.
The video version of Apple Music, so to speak. But Apple and the studios couldn’t come to terms, so Apple went with the “future of TV is apps”.
Finding the future
Apps is something everyone understands. It’s the DMZ of content. Instead of providing programming to Apple, studios, existing networks, and cable and satellite providers could create apps, and customers could watch content through those apps, provided they logged in with the appropriate account. With a few notable exceptions, including Amazon, it got all the content people wanted to watch onto the Apple devices people wanted to watch it on.
But it created a lot of overhead, especially for setup and navigation.
To solve for the former, tvOS 10—due this fall—will enable “single sign on”. If your provider allows it, all you’ll have to so is enter your cable or satellite credentials once, see all the apps available to you, download, tell Siri what you want to watch and start watching it. Including live TV, if available.
To solve for the latter, though, will require something more. Currently, Siri can only show you what you want, it can’t let you browse everything that’s available. Ask for a specific show, type of movie, or live channel, and you’re good to go. Ask what’s on now, and Siri has no idea.
An Apple TV Guide, on the other hands …
The interface is the app
An Apple TV Guide would keep track of everything that’s currently available, with a design and experience that’s uniquely Apple, but without the need for Apple to license and stream the content themselves.
And while there would absolutely be differences, especially in terms of ease of use and performance, it would be worth suffering them in the short term.
For customers, the interface is the app. It doesn’t really matter what pipes are feeding it behind the scenes. As long as what a customer taps and sees is what they expect to tap and see, Apple can pretty much do whatever they want behind the scenes.
Apple can start by pulling in all the content available in all the apps — and original programing like Planet of the Apps and Carpool Karaoke — and populate the guide with that. Then, if and when any deals are made with Hollywood, Apple can simply switch out the apps and switch in the direct content feeds, and most customers wouldn’t even notice the difference. Except, of course, that set up would become easier and performance better.
Either way, what we’d tap and see is what we’d expect to tap and see.
It’s how you skate to where you know the TV puck is going to be, even when the path is blocked by defense.
You skate around them.