A proposed change in U.S. regulations could have massive implications when it comes to bringing about the kind of integrated Apple television set Steve Jobs talked about producing.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed a revision of rules that would afford Internet streaming services the same treatment as traditional cable and satellite television companies when it comes to negotiating with channel operators like HBO.
If the change is made, online providers would gain “access to programming owned by cable operators” and be able to negotiate licensing deals with content providers like HBO or local TV stations. Wheeler says the move would “encourage new video alternatives by opening up access to content previously locked on cable channels,” similar to the way regulatory changes in the ’90s enabled satellite TV to compete with cable operators.
If everything goes ahead, Apple could be in a position to gain access to all the channels necessary to persuade users to give up their cable boxes, as opposed to only the streaming deals it currently has in place.
In his recent interview with Charlie Rose, Tim Cook said current TV distribution is still stuck in the 1970s. “It almost feels like you’re rewinding the clock and you’ve entered a time capsule and you’re going backwards,” he said.
Allowing companies like Apple, Google and Netflix to compete with the entrenched interests of cable companies on a level playing field would have an enormous impact on the qualitative TV viewing experience, from new interface possibilities, to price, to better all-round integration with a variety of different devices.
Will it happen? We’ll have to wait and see, but aside from a few greedy cable companies, nobody loses out on this deal.