DirectTV CEO: Apple HDTV Not A Threat, Won’t Have Superior User Interface

DirectTV CEO: Apple HDTV Not A Threat, Won’t Have Superior User Interface

DirecTV chairman claims Apple won't deliver a better experience or content for viewers.

The entertainment industry may be bracing for further disruption by Apple when the company finally unveils its HDTV and related television plans, but at least one major player in the field is refusing to show any sign of fear.

In a move sure to be followed by other industry executives, DirecTV chairman Michael White downplayed the potential for an Apple television during a conference attended by other cable and satellite company leaders late last week. While other executives were fairly noncommittal about an Apple HDTV and what it could mean for the entertainment industry, White was emphatic in deriding the idea that Apple could deliver a better user experience to viewers.

Speaking at the Sanford Bernstein Strategic Decisions conference, White specifically called out two of the most anticipated features of an Apple television – a superior user interface and a better selection of content – and described them as unrealistic and unimportant to his company’s customers.

Taking aim at the idea that Apple is likely to deliver a much better user interface than the clunky setups currently used by cable and satellite set-top boxes, White said that he doubts “Apple’s interface will be so much better than DirecTV’s” and that people will continue to pay for a set-top box regardless of Apple’s user interface.

White also doubts that Apple will be able to deliver a robust set of content options or a sustainable business model.

They are going to launch something, maybe in the next two weeks… but I don’t see media companies saying, ‘You can stream things in bundles over the Internet.’ Typically with technology, it smashes the cost structure in some new way, (but) with content costs, rights fees and the cost of spectrum, it’s hard to se (it) obsoleting our technology.

White’s comments specifically avoid referencing the fact that Mountain Lion will allow Mac users to stream any web videos or other content directly to an Apple HDTV (or to any television with an Apple TV box attached) wirelessly using AirPlay – a technology that Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt admitted that he knew nothing about during a recent interview.

Comcast chairman Brian Roberts was a bit more understated when saying that he hoped that consumers will “want our interface” but that he doesn’t expect much disruption from Apple’s entry into the market even if customers “want Apple’s interface.”

The bravado sounds similar to the reactions smartphone makers like RIM had around the iPhone’s launch five years ago.

  • Tallest_Skil

    You idiots are so effing delusional, I can’t wait for Apple to release their SOFTWARE-ONLY television solution and run you all out of business.

  • FriarNurgle

    It’s typical CEO speak. Of course they are worried about Apple and trend to cut the cord. 

  • Derek Martin

    a) Apple doesn’t have to pay for spectrum

    b) It would be difficult for Apple to produce an interface that is NOT better than DirecTV’s interface
  • lwdesign1

    Whistling past the graveyard, hoping nothing bad will happen. “We don’t know what Apple is coming out with, but we’re sure it won’t have any great impact or be better than what we offer.”

    Translation: We’re not going to try innovating or providing a better user experience, because what we have is working now, and we hope to hell that Apple hasn’t got anything better–even though they’ve already dominated the music industry, the smartphone industry and the tablet market sector.
  • Ed_Kel

    It’s typical CEO speak. Of course they are worried about Apple and trend to cut the cord. 

    Agreed. They wouldn’t be talking about if they weren’t concerned…

  • Ed_Kel

    It’s fascinating to watch Apple make all other companies, particularly ones in Apple’s emerging markets, tremble in their boots at the idea that Apple will decimate all competition. What’s more, nobody has a clue as to what Apple is planning and is therefore, reacting to rumor and speculation.

  • solrosenbergsshoes

    I’m not impressed with Comcast/Xfinity’ or DirectTV’ interfaces. Nor am I impressed with their exorbitant fees. I can only hope that I can someday just have Internet through a carrier, and allow me to get my content from whomever I want.

  • acmdude

    “Pride goeth before the fall” is a pertinent saying here.  When he says “he doubts Apple’s interface will be so much better than DirecTV’s” he’s hoping that if he says it, it will be true.  Content may be an area where there are problems for Apple but user interface design? – they invented it baby.  Fear the Apple.

  • wpns

    RIM?  Who’s that?   8*)

  • Tim Lanfair

    I can remember a certain Verizon CEO saying something is similar….about how apples phone was a joke….I’m betting tv CEOs all over the country are loosing sleep

  • QJeremiah

    Remember the name.

    In two years this guy will be shining shoes in a street corner instead of being a rich CEO.
    We have seen it so many times, people making claims in the style of Ballmers “It doesn’t have a keyboard!!!!”. The always have to eat up their own words….
  • ja808hi

    They r worried ( CEO ) they might not b worried now. DirecTV is good don’t get me wrong. but it wasn’t good when it first came out. as the years go on it got better and added new stuff to is software. I think the same will go as well for Apple HDTV. ( If that’s what we r calling it). I see more company’s wanting to get involved with Apple after they see how much people want this. Let them not worry now but later they will be like damn we should have jumped on board from the start. 

  • Chris Davis

    With the amount of people I know that are unhappy with Comcast, hope is the best thing Brian Roberts has for his future. Comcast are a bunch of crooks. If Apple provides 10% better than Comcast service you can bet they will be switching to the Apple service in droves. Unfortunately, we still have to pay these crooks to get the broadband access into our homes. Maybe there will be “one more thing” and it will be that Apple is going to start providing internet access too. That would collapse Comcast.

  • James Jenkins

    Oh yea? Just try and use the so called smart search on your own directtv box Mr. CEO. Complete rubbish. If Apple really enters this market looks like direct tv will be the Moto razr of 2007. Pants caught completely down.

  • Brandon Dillon

    “White said that he doubts “Apple’s interface will be so much better than
    DirecTV’s” and that people will continue to pay for a set-top box
    regardless of Apple’s user interface.”

    ahaha oh God, my sides

    I loved reading every word of this, comments included. Apple doesn’t enter markets unless they strongly believe that they can produce the best product. I can’t think of many instances where they have entered a market and didn’t set the bar for the rest of the industry.

    I have no formal experience in designing efficient and intuitive user interfaces, but I can definitely scratch up a better content navigation system in less than an hour as opposed to what Comcast and DirTV have. Their GUI is a joke.

    Balmer laughing at the iPhone truly makes me ache with laughter. I feel history is about to repeat itself, but this time with the TV industry.

  • Boozer007

    Mr. White would have released his statement sooner, but the email client on his Windows 98 machine was not co-operating.

  • Victor Ciccarone

    I doubt it will be better then direct TV as in they will problably have the same content boradcast. Youll get the apple mac guys to buy into this as soon as it comes out but Im still one of the guus that doesnt own a single apple product and Im living just fine.

    The new direct TV interface is much better then the old one thats been around for years. I dont know how much more or what more you need that apple is going to provide…I would imagine the interface will be the same as an appple TV interface. The problem with apple TV is its only got 8 commands for control and 3 of them are just duplicates on differant buttons. I dont think its all that great. Its functional but its not goign to be functional enough for people that have direct TV now and switch to this apple thing….Apple has their own ideas about doing things and doesnt realyl care what the rest of the CE world does or thinks so we’ll have to see what this new tv box thing is all about………I guess the apple TV isnt enough for them.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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