TV Will Be Apple's Undoing

The following piece from the Wall Street Journal is an interesting take on content vs. technology. While the evolution continues, the winners so far seem to be both the consumer and the marketer. Our take is that this will only help DRTV

Bill McCabe is the President and CEO at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America’s largest DRTV agencies.

TV Will Be Apple's Undoing

By: Holman W. Jenkins, JR.

Apple had snafus under Steve Jobs—antenna-gate, MobileMe, the frequently obtuse Siri. Its latest snafu, a faulty maps application installed on the new version of the iPhone, isn't a testament to the inferiority of Apple's current management. The snafu will be easily rectified by, if nothing else, Google releasing and Apple approving a version of the Google Maps app for the iPhone 5.

For entirely different reasons, though, the map mess demonstrates why circumstances are turning against Apple's current business model. Simply, content is king again. However much it might benefit Apple's business model to force users to patronize its own maps app, the company won't get far in trying to deny them Google's far superior app. Apple for a while managed to tame the power of content and make it subservient, but that day is coming to an end.

Forget the maps farrago. Look at Apple's agony over the TV puzzle. Apple is frustrated because there is no solution to TV that will let Apple keep doing what it has been doing.

Like schnauzers overreacting to the postman's arrival, the tech press was in a tizzy a month ago on reports that Apple was talking to the cable industry about bringing cable's linear channel lineups to a future Apple device. But the technical feat is no technical feat. Time Warner and Cablevision managed to roll out iPad apps within days of the device's debut 2½ years ago.

These TV apps proved unsatisfactory not because of any lack of Apple magic, but because only certain channels were available, and because consumers were allowed only to watch in the home (the whole point of an iPad is its portability). Even so, the Hollywood studios that actually own the shows sued saying the apps violated their contract rights.

Apple's fans imagine the company can do for TV what it did for music: breaking up the existing distribution model. Forget about it. Television is about to demonstrate the inadequacy of Apple's own business model.

Video-content owners, including everyone from the TV networks and Hollywood and the NFL and Major League Baseball, aren't the music industry or even the book industry. Video-content owners aren't looking for a savior and ultimately won't be satisfied with anything less than an open ecosystem accessible by any device.

They'll have no choice: Content owners already see their business being upended by Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, with an approach adapted to digital ubiquity from the get-go. They also know, if they sit still, their current partners, the cable industry and its analogues, will simply take advantage, as satellite operator DISH is doing with its ad-skipping function that so infuriates the TV networks.

In such a world, Apple will have to change too. To maintain its position, the company will have to focus more on giving its devices superb access to content it doesn't control and hasn't approved.

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