Will Apple Kill Cable?

The tech firm is in talks with CBS and Disney. Could the Cupertino innovators overhaul the TV business?

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Remember what Apple did to your music player and your phone? Well, it tried and failed once to do the same to your TV. (See: much-neglected, little-loved Apple TV.) But the Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is in talks with CBS and Disney (where Steve Jobs is a major shareholder) to offer their programming in a $30-a-month Internet subscription TV service that could take a radical leap forward.

So is Apple about to revolutionize your set? Most analysts are highlighting hurdles in the plan--the reluctance of TV networks to get snookered into depending on Apple (as the music industry does), the proliferation of competitive services from Netflix and cable companies--but many are welcoming the pressure to innovate Apple would bring to the TV business.

  • Competition Over Internet TV Already Heating Up, reports Sam Schechner in the Wall Street Journal. Schechner outlines Apple's plan to offer subscriptions to watch TV online. But he says it will be an uphill climb given that Netflix is exapnding its own streaming video service, and that Hulu "is also looking at the possibility of launching a subscription service...Meanwhile, cable companies are rolling out their own services that put cable-TV shows online for existing subscribers, giving them more reasons to keep their subscriptions."
  • How Can Apple Win at a Non-Existent Industry? wonders Douglas A. McIntyre at 24/7 Wall St. McIntyre touches on Apple TV's failure to take off, and notes that Apple needs a revenue stream to keep its "momentum and relationship with Wall St." On the pro side, he says Apple has tens of millions of loyal customers with Apple devices. On the con side, though, "Apple's first problem is obviously be to get enough subscribers to create a critical mass that will draw content providers ... The hurdle that Apple may not be able to clear is that internet TV may have no future at all."
  • Will Apple Users Balk at Subscription Model? asks the staff at Electronista. The writer first outlines the challenge of persuading TV and movie studios to join, given Apple's dominance of digital music in the iTunes store, making record labels "dependent on iTunes for success."  Electronista then notes, "Regardless of success, a subscription plan would be a distinct break from Apple's prior attitude, which has usually insisted on per-item ownership instead of subscriptions. TV may be different as it has long followed a subscription model and would be easier to digest for iTunes visitors than subscription music."
  • Cable Companies Deserve to Get Apple-Attacked, writes MG Siegler at TechCrunch. "Just as Apple transformed the music industry in the earlier part of this decade thanks to the iTunes/iPod combination, and the mobile industry thanks to the iPhone, a device that offered all the television content over the Internet could force the cable companies to stop sucking...While it may be just a pipe dream for now, I, for one, hope they're able to blow up the cable industry."
  • A Step Toward Killing TV as We Know It, writes Henry Blodget at Business Insider.  "All of this is a next step toward what will inevitably be the future of the TV business: Internet delivery of TV content. As we've argued, there is no way that today's teenagers will pay $150 a month for 500 channels they don't want to watch when most of what they do want to watch is a click or two away."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.