Sometimes there are so many Apple rumours they're difficult to keep straight, like the latest information surrounding Apple's TV streaming service.
The Apple TV was just updated, despite reports from analysts, who repeatedly claim Apple will abandon the Apple TV set-top box in favour of a full-fledged Apple TV set. Either way, to compliment this living room hardware, there is a lot of talk going around in regards to the software side of things. Apple is supposedly getting ready to unveil a TV subscription streaming service.
Here's everything we know so far about the Apple TV's yet-to-be-confirmed streaming service, including when it might release and what it might feature. The latest news has indicated Apple may have taken a break on the idea.
If you want to know more about the next Apple TV set-top box, check out Pocket-lint's other round up.
Apple TV streaming service: Release date
According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple was getting ready to launch a subscription-based streaming TV service last autumn. The report, which cited unnamed sources, claimed the service would cost between $30 to $40 per month and be available on iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV and that the service could debut at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in June 2015, ahead of a September launch in the US.
Re/code later claimed that Apple wouldn’t announce a subscription TV service at WWDC and even told network executives the unveiling was postponed due licensing deals not being finalised in time. The report noted industry executives now predict Apple’s TV service will launch later this year or in 2016. We of course know realise - since its 2016 and all - that the TV service could launch this year or later.
Bloomberg has also claimed that the subscription streaming service would unveil during Apple's September event (alongside a powerful Apple TV set-top box), but it looks like the company is now aiming for 2016.
Apple TV streaming service: Timeline of negotiations
Apple has been rumoured to be working on a subscription-based TV service since at least 2009, but the company has confirmed nothing. That said, during Apple's most recent earnings call, Tim Cook stoked consumers' imaginations worldwide when he confirmed television is something Apple "continues to look at". Apple is even trying to find a way to make a "greater contribution" than what it now offers, the CEO said.
One ongoing theory is that Apple hopes to revamp television by replacing existing cable subscription packages in the US, but its entire plan has been delayed due to failed negotiations. Content providers allegedly don't want to change the status quo, even though the television industry has been rapidly going web-based anyway. Dish, for instance, just launched a web-based, video-on-demand service called Sling TV.
Original reports, such as this one from The Wall Street Journal, claimed Apple was in talks with CBS and The Walt Disney Company, and that both of them were considering participating in the web-based service. Nothing of course ever materialised from those alleged talks.
Flash forward three years later and a similar report from The New York Post claimed that Apple wanted to launch its TV service by Christmas, despite resistance from content providers. The Wall Street Journal followed up with another report about how Apple was developing a cloud-based DVR that would store TV shows online and was designed so viewers could stream a show minutes after it began airing live.
The Wall Street Journal also claimed Apple was in talks with cable services like Comcast and Time Warner Cable, as well as companies that control television content. While all that sounds exciting, another three years has since passed without any confirmation from Apple, though we are starting to see more and more reports about an Apple TV subscription TV service, such as this Re/code one from February 2015.
According to industry executives who spoke to Re/code, Apple was once again in talks with television programmers over deals for its web-based TV service. Apple wants to offer custom television packages that can be streamed over the internet. These packages would include channel bundles from participating content providers as well as content delivered by Apple - and everything would have Apple's interface.
The latest round of reports sound even more promising. According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple has been in talks with programmers, such as CBS, 21st Century Fox and The Walt Disney Company, to launch a subscription-based streaming TV service that would have about 25 channels. The New York Post has also weighed in, claiming Apple has been in talks with Disney, CBS, Fox, and Discovery for content partnerships.
The New York Post also said Apple plans to share viewer data, which might include information like demographics and what's being watched, to help programmers target advertising to Apple TV customers. In other words: it appears as though Apple finally got some content providers on board by promising to give them access to customer data in return.
According to Re/code, Apple wants to launch its TV service this autumn. The Cupertino-based company also wants networks to shoulder the responsibility and financial burden of the streaming infrastructure associated with its TV service, while it will focus on the hardware and software end.
Re/code pointed out that such a situation wouldn't be very different from the channels currently on Apple TV; rather than have Apple support and pipe content through third-party apps, most major networks handle their own streams and push them to the Apple TV set-top box.
Another recent report from Re/code claimed NBC and parent company Comcast have not been part of any recent negotiations with Apple, mostly because Apple has not approached Comcast about a partnership. Rumours have therefore suggested NBC's absence from Apple's TV service is due to a falling out between Apple and Comcast.
Comcast revealed in March via a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission - which was a response to a filing from Stop Mega Comcast (a group that's opposed to a Comcast-Time Warner merging) - that Apple had not even approached NBC for a content deal, but it is not clear why.
Apple and Comcast likely have attempted to negotiate a deal in the past, which The Wall Street Journal has suggested, and it's been said that those talks failed because Comcast wanted to focus on its own X1 web streaming platform.
Les Moonves, the CEO of CBS, told CNN Money in February that CBS had conversations with Apple a while back but no recent conversations. CBS is the US' most watched network, so Apple would want to keep Moonves on speed dial if it were developing a TV service. Although Apple possibly took a break from looking for content, other reports suggest it's trying to land exclusives.
Apple TV streaming service: What will it feature?
Thus, if all the latest rumours are true, Apple's TV streaming service will basically offer up a package of 25 bundled channels. The package might cost up to $40 per month, but you'll have programming from CBS, 21st Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company, and Discovery. The service therefore sounds like it'll be similar to Sling TV or even PlayStation Vue; you'll pay a monthly fee in order to watch certain channels anywhere.
The New York Post claimed Apple isn’t in talks with Comcast-owned NBCUniversal to include the broadcast network or other NBCU channels in its package. 9to5Mac said NBC is instead developing an app for set-top boxes and consoles. The network wants to launch its app in the second half of this year. You'll likely need to sign in with your cable provider credentials to live stream local NBC affiliates, play full episodes, etc.
Keep in mind Apple recently announced an exclusive partnership with HBO to offer HBO Now, the premium cable channel's first subscription streaming service outside of a cable provider. In order watch HBO's entire catalogue of shows and films through the app, you'll need to pay $14.99 per month. The service launched in April 2015 was exclusive to the Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad for three months.
It's safe to assume that the Apple TV will continue to offer a version of the current interface we know. The current user interface used in the fourth-generation Apple TV features a rectangle tile interface and an app store. The tiles serve as app-like buttons or channels to Apple's streaming services, such as iTunes Radio and iMovie Theatre, as well as third-party services like Netflix.
Going forward, we can imagine Apple adding a new tile that'll give you access to its package of 25 channels, but that's not confirmed. Most reports concerning Apple's TV service have agreed the it will sport the company's design vision. Whether or not the TV service is an Apple TV app, you can be sure the interface (or interfaces) will be developed and maintained by Apple.
If you look at really old rumours, such as the ones referenced above, Apple might not only offer a subscription package of channels, but also a cloud-based DVR feature that is able to store TV shows online and begin streaming shows minutes after they began airing live. There's not much news going around at the moment about such a feature, but it's something still worth noting.
Live programming from local TV stations
So we know Apple's TV service will involve offering TV subscriptions over the web, but according to a report in May from Re/code, it'll also include widespread access to live programming from local TV stations.
Apple wants to provide US cities with programming from their local broadcast stations, which will make it standout when compared to Sony and Dish’s Sling (they offer very limited local programming in a handful of cities). But this plan has reportedly complicated negotiations with the broadcast TV networks.
Broadcasters don’t own all their local stations. Instead, they're affiliates or under a franchise system. Apple and broadcasters need to get the rights to show local programs and commercials. Also, since Apple would provide digital feeds, broadcasters need to build new streaming infrastructures.
Re/code speculated Apple wouldn't be ready to launch its web TV service until autumn 2015. The company is not facing any technical issues, but rather needs to iron out agreements. When the TV service finally does launch, Apple will use its marketing power to promote it and shore up new revenue streams.
The idea is that Apple's live programming will be made available and streamed to millions of Apple devices with a screen - not just the Apple TV. But Bloomberg claimed Apple might not deliver live, local programming to customers until 2016. Talks with CBS, Fox, and NBC have stalled.
Also, Apple reportedly hasn't yet increased its network capacity in order to deliver a decent viewing experience.
Apple TV streaming service: What do analysts say?
Oh, Gene Munster.
He's the Piper Jaffray financial analyst who has been predicting an Apple TV set for years. He's largely a laughing stock now, but that hasn't stopped him from jumping on the latest TV service news and linking it to an Apple TV set:
"We believe that this possible content package would remove a significant hurdle to Apple launching a standalone television," said Munster. "While recent media reports question Apple’s interest in an actual television, we continue to believe it is the most logical next area of focus."
So maybe 2016 will finally be the year that we see Apple unleash a subscription package and DVR-like functionality. Or maybe this is all nonsense, and Apple is putting all its energy toward an electric-powered vehicle.