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Sit on your couch, close your eyes and dream up what the perfect television would look like. Not just physical design, but also what it would be capable of delivering.
Of course it would be connected to the Internet. Most are today, or at least have some kind of over-the-top device that makes the living room set smart.
But if there were no programming rights and heft cable contracts to worry about and everything was delivered in crystal-clear high definition — maybe even 4K ultra-high definition — what would it look like? How would it work?
There won’t be just one television viewing experience of the future. Several companies will compete and innovate to deliver what consumers demand. Apple, who has been heavily rumored to release its own dedicated Apple iTV sometime in the next year or so, will face competition from Samsung. Intel is currently creating what it feels is the future of television.
The free market is alive and well and consumers will benefit. But let’s remember that Apple changed the way we listened to music. And just like everyone refers to a sticky bandage as a Band Aid — a trademarked company name — we call all tablets iPads.
Will we soon call the home television the iTV? The Apple TV? Apple can accomplish this, but it’s going to be difficult. If they can provide a consumer experience that includes these eight features, and do it better than its competitors, it might be time to break out the wallets.
1) Programming Rights Are The Biggest Hurdles
Everything we watch on television today comes at a price, even if you’re enjoying it for free, over-the-air using an antenna. If that’s the case, you’re paying your local television news station or the ABC, CBS or NBC network with your time by watching commercials. Someone has to pay for those programs and that’s why cable and satellite bills are so high, and why there have been so many retransmission consent battles against cable companies and major television networks.
If Apple can clear the rights — hell, with their billions of dollars in the bank, they could buy the programming rights — they could offer the next feature on this list: Á la carte programming.
2) Á La Carte Programming Is The Dream Situation
There’s a reason why ESPN, which cable operators pay more than $5 per subscriber to the sports network’s parent company Disney each month, is on the bottom tier of every cable subscription plan: Cable operators can charge more money, even if you don’t like sports and never plan on watching an episode of SportsCenter.
In a perfect world, we could choose which channels we want and then pay a monthly fee based around those channels. As pointed out above, however, Apple needs to clear rights and compensate networks like ESPN the same amount, if not more, to what they were making.
For example, Apple could charge its users that want ESPN in their channel lineup $15 per month and then $5 for the local feeds to the ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and PBS affiliates. Of course, if a consumer doesn’t care for the content on CBS, they wouldn’t have to pay for it. But if they elect all five network feeds, in addition to ESPN, they’d pay a flat fee of $40 each month.
The monthly cost would come with other perks.
3) A True TV Everywhere Experience
One of the perks users will get from their Apple TV monthly subscription is 100 percent, absolutely true TV Everywhere experience. Today, TV Everywhere models require users to have a Pay TV subscription service to access content on mobile devices, like an iPhone or iPad. The problem is that not all channels have agreements with all cable or satellite operators. And the channels that have worked out agreements may not offer a live feed, but instead, content on-demand.
Apple’s TV Everywhere experience needs to not only include on-demand content, but also that ever-so-important live feed. So if you’re watching the big football game at home — yes, Apple needs to pay an insane amount of money for the rights to NFL games — and need to make the trip to the store, you could watch the live feed over LTE on an iPhone without any delay. When you return home, you turn on your TV and can finish the game using your television set.
4) Advertisements Will Be Super-Targeted
There will always be some kind of privacy debate involved when it comes to targeted advertising, but at the very least, using Apple’s User ID with a television service will give advertisers an idea on how old the person is watching, what times they tend to watch the most and then, based on what they subscribe to, can target commercials that consumers would actually pay attention to. No need for commercial-skipping technology.
Companies like Hulu let users tell the company, while watching programming, if the ad interests them. Based on those answers, ads are then more tailored to recommendations.
5) Commercials Will Also Be Interactive
In a sense, Apple was on the forefront of interactive advertising when it came to mobile advertisements. Its iAd platform let advertisers design beautiful, interactive ads that would let consumers do everything from play a game to watch a trailer, to buying a product altogether. The TV experience will take interactive ads to the next level.
Long gone are the days when televisions are just televisions. Today, they’re intelligent computers that can still deliver a picture the old-fashioned way. Why should commercials remain stuck in the past?
Commercials on Apple’s television service will zap content — if you let it, of course — to your mobile device or second screen. Commercials will also allow users to send back information. For example, if there’s a play in town and there are still tickets available four to six hours before the show, a last-second advertisement could be purchased and pushed out. IF you’re interested, you could buy the tickets straight from the screen. The credit card you have on file with your Apple ID would be charged.
(As a disclaimer, you’d need some parental lock when children are watching. Could you imagine the kinds of purchases being made during Saturday morning cartoons?)
6) Say Goodbye To The Remote Control
The remote control was a revolutionary product when it made its debut. So much so that it changed the then-current advertising platform. TV viewers would be discouraged from getting up from the couch to go over and flip through the channels during a commercial. The remote gave them the freedom to do so from the comfort that couch.
The biggest problems with remote controls today are that the technology of the device is about 30 years old and they frequently are lost.
The TV remote of today will be controlled with whatever device is in front of you. That means it could be a user’s iPhone or iPad, or even a laptop. A smartphone is always in your pocket. A remote, for all you know, is buried under the couch cushion.
7) Channels Aren’t Numbers. Channels Are Apps
The app phenomenon will breathe new life with Apple’s television service. In a sense, the company’s over-the-top Apple TV device that sells for $100 today is already making progress with this concept.
For so long, we’ve clicked our remote to the number channel we want to watch. We got really good at memorizing channel numbers, and when we moved or went off to college, we needed to re-learn those channel numbers.
Under Apple’s TV service, whatever you subscribe to will become an app on the user interface. When you click your local ABC affiliate’s app, you’ll have the option to watch live, or watch highlighted programming on-demand. Those local stations can brand their app however they want and let it include things like social media polls, messages from local talent, or even a local community calendar, letting users what’s going on in their world.
But those apps will mostly be used to watch content. If a user misses the 5 p.m. newscast, he or she could go back an hour later and watch it on-demand. If they just want to watch the local weather forecast, they’d also have that option.
8) Attractive Design And Affordable Price Point
It’s safe to assume that Apple would design an absolutely beautiful television set that fits nicely along its current lineup of mobile and desktop computing devices. But the design can’t be too over-the-top. It can look clean, but it needs to look familiar. This is, after all, going to live in a family room, seen by all.
The biggest challenge will be a price point. Apple charges more than $1,500 for a 15-inch laptop computer. I can only imagine how much a 55-inch television is going to cost. We’ve already covered what Apple needs to do to keep its service low. It now needs to do the same with its hardware. A maximum price tag of $3,000 might be pushing it. $2,500 would certainly be better.
But if Apple could sell, let’s say a 46-inch television set, for under $2,000, it’d have a winner.
Suggestions for Apple’s TV and/or TV service? Leave a comment with your input below.
Andrew Dodson is on Twitter. Follow him here.