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.