Apple TV Is a Lot of Things. But It’s Not Really Television
Apple revealed its much-anticipated update to the world of television yesterday with its new and improved Apple TV. At its San Francisco event, the company touted how the new remote can be used for gaming and how Siri can help you find what you want to watch. But the company’s announcement lacked a certain excitement when it came to what we think is a pretty key feature of TV: the content itself.
Okay, so yes, you will be able to stream shows and movies from big name partners like Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and Showtime. All of Apple TV’s previous app offerings, like YouTube, the Disney Channel, and ESPN, will continue to be available. Apple TVs will also come with their very own new App Store—for which developers can build all kinds of gaming apps, streaming apps, and other services.
But instead of telling us about how we’ll all soon be cord-cutters free of cable, Apple kept telling us to look ahead. And then it started talking about shopping. Michelle Peluso, the CEO of Gilt Groupe, took to the stage to tell us how soon we’ll be able to buy new shoes from the comfort of our couch. And Apple began to share how soon we can check Zillow real-estate listings on a living room big screen.
*frowny wife turns apple tv to Gilt* hey, I was watching MLB! “BUY NEW SHIRTS” *man tries to pinch and drag corners of her mouth* “IM NOT A”
— Casey Johnston (@caseyjohnston) September 9, 2015
All of which sounds silly—and not really necessary. We can already search, shop, and buy from Gilt and myriad other digital stores on our phones, tablets, or laptops. Do we really need to shop on our TVs too? The answer for you may be no. Or it may be yes! Either way, it’s not a particularly dramatic advance in the way we interact with the myriad screens in our lives.
To a cynic, bringing Gilt onto its stage shows that Apple doesn’t yet have the content deals that it needs and reportedly wants. It doesn’t seem like you will be able to buy a single subscription from Apple to get all kinds of live TV offerings—yet.
But Apple is setting the stage for new kinds of experiences with the help of its new App Store. Shows, movies, or games on your TV may soon be immersive, interactive, and, well, offer you the chance to shop.
“The open App Store and the ability for any content creator to have their own immersive video experience brought directly to the television in native form is big,” says BTIG analyst Brandon Ross. “For the traditional cable networks that have been beholden to antiquated TV boxes, this should give them an opportunity for a much more immersive experience and opens up other avenues like e-commerce.”
Ross thinks that Apple’s introduction of the Gilt app may be more about showing the possibilities of e-commerce, just as the demonstration of its MLB app showed off Apple’s capabilities for a more immersive experience. “Imagine you have, say, the Disney channel app and around it you put a store and people could browse the store that’s related to the content that they’re seeing,” Ross says.
I believe Apple TV’s App Store will create more valuable companies than the Apple Watch’s App Store. — Jay Yarow (@jyarow) September 9, 2015
We don’t know yet what immersive app-ified television content would look like. But the possibilities, for both consumers and the content industry, are potentially endless. Imagine watching Game of Thrones with the ability to follow along on a map. Or watching Netflix’s new seriews Narcos with the option to peer at a timeline of the real Pablo Escobar’s life. Or shopping Gilt with the option of seeing a clip of what it looks like to wear those jeans on the street.
“They’re trying to show that it’s a platform and a lot of the mobile experiences will be ported over, but those are all incremental,” says Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster of Apple’s demonstration of Gilt and Zillow. “This lays the groundwork. It really becomes something that becomes mainstream once they get the OTT content nailed down.”
Without the on-demand shows and live sports that we all want to watch, the question remains if people will flock to Apple TV. No matter how new and improved the product may be, it’s a part of a crowded field. For Apple, apps may be the future. But for the rest of us, we already have TV.
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