Apple TV got live, HD streaming of MLB and NBA games with a software update yesterday. Ryan Lawler thinks this shows huge potential for bringing live TV to the platform, and I agree. But it also shows that Apple could offer specific, targeted content to audiences in a way that cable companies can’t.
MLB and NBA on the Apple TV are basically single-focus channels. They deliver exactly the content a user is looking for, and nothing more. This is already something Apple has experience with through the App Store. HGTVtoGO, for instance, provides on-demand shows from the home improvement and real estate-focused specialty channel for iPad owners to stream. Making similar apps available for the Apple TV would offer exactly what users are looking for in a cable alternative.
Right now, if you wanted a specialty channel focused on home renovations, you’d have to buy a package of various bundled channels, some of which might interest you, but most of which probably don’t. Cable companies often bundle some duds in with the good stuff to justify boosting prices. If Apple can provide app “channels” that offer users complete, customizable a-la-carte content selection, it could make much more of a dent in the living room entertainment market segment than it currently does.
Apple’s already paved the way for this kind of software on the Apple TV, both technically and by making it appear not much of a stretch to content providers from what they currently offer. Apple’s mobile devices offer users the chance to output content to the big screen, and the new HD mirroring feature introduced with the iPad narrows the gulf between apps on a mobile screen and apps on a TV screen further still.
If Apple can offer content providers a revenue model that looks better than what they currently get from cable providers (and they should be able to provide both paid and ad-supported systems, as they do in iOS), we might see more speciality content beyond sports join the fray very soon. I know all I need is an Apple TV Dog Whisperer app and I can leave behind my cable subscription without ever looking back.