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DirecTV: Apple TV won’t “obsolete our technology”

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While we in tech and gadget land are trying to read the tea leaves of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent cryptic comments on the future of Apple TV(s AAPL), for the media world the uncertainty “is causing a boatload of angst and anticipation,” according to Variety. And after the latest rumor — that Apple is working on a new operating system for its set-top box and plans to preview it at WWDC in two weeks — power players in the TV content delivery business are starting to speak out about it.

DirecTV(s DTV) Chairman Michael White, at an investor’s conference in New York on Friday, doubted that a new Apple TV OS would be so good that current cable or satellite subscribers would shell out for another set-top box, and he believes they’d still keep whatever current box they already have, according to Variety.

He was also skeptical about content providers getting on board:

“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,'” White said at Sanford C. Bernstein’s Strategic Decisions confab. “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 see (it) obsoleting our technology.”

While skepticism is called for when it comes to whether content providers would get on board with an Apple television, White could probably afford to be a little less certain about the appeal of Apple TV in its current form. While it isn’t currently in danger of becoming a product as important as the iPad or iPhone, the company has sold 2.7 million Apple TVs in the first half of its fiscal year 2012, after selling 2.8 million all of last year, Cook said earlier this week. At least some of those customers bought one in addition to their cable or satellite box, or replaced their pay TV set top box entirely.

But at least White understands that Apple, with its technology, is clearly intending to disrupt his industry — Time Warner Cable CEO Glen Britt infamously didn’t even know what AirPlay is.

For his part, Comcast(s CMCSA) Chairman Brian Roberts was far less defensive in his remarks at the same conference. He practically welcomed Apple to the TV business, but he’s secure in knowing that to use Apple TV customers need Internet access, which he will happily keep selling them.

39 Responses to “DirecTV: Apple TV won’t “obsolete our technology””

  1. George Wedding

    DirecTV and Comcast are vulnerable.

    We already dumped Comcast HDTV service for DirecTV about three years ago back due to Comcast’s unjustified high rates, poor DVR, inferior programming guide, over-compressed bit rates, poor standard definition TV quality and the reduction of 1080i TV resolutions a couple of years ago).

    Now, we no longer rent DirecTV OnDemand movies either, because Apple’s rentals are $1 less while the quality for 1080p programming is terrific. For the past three seasons, we also have subscribed to Major League Baseball through AppleTV, because this allows me to watch games on either the iPad, iPhone, Mac or 57-inch HDTV (with AppleTV). If I subscribe through DirecTV, I can only watch on a dedicated channel on the 57-inch HDTV.

    Speaking of AppleTV, it already has a nice little interface that steps you through programing your universal remote to control Cupertino’s device. I just used this interface to program two Pioneer AV Receiver Remotes to control two AppleTV’s in the house. Also, AppleTV’s Guide fonts and typography are more readable and the title cover graphics are larger and better.

    Don’t get me wrong: DirecTV has done a fine job of delivering a reliable DVR, a good Guide interface, iPad compatibility and even PC- and Mac-compatible home networking.

    But DirecTV also downsamples 1920x1080i channels to 1440x1080i and the programs are noticeably less sharp than 720p channels (which are not downsampled). DirecTV SD (480i channels are over-compressed too, sometimes dramatically and many simply are so fuzzy that they’re unwatchable. Also, you do pay an arm-and-a-leg for DirecTV services, and an extra penalty in the form of a higher Internet price for not bundling Comcast’s Internet and HDTV services.

    So, we do not necessarily feel any loyalty to DirecTV or Comcast.

  2. Here are two words of advice for Michael White: Ed Colligan.

    Maybe give Ed a call sometime, Mike, and ask him how pronouncements about Apple hardware work out, then get back to us.

  3. Sounds a lot like those guys with various phone manufacturers talking about how the, at the time unannounced, iPhone was going to be no threat at all to their current smart phones.

  4. Pete Austin

    @tv industry. Time to fix your product. My iPad does a lot more than my tv setup, with one button instead of 3 controllers with a total of 100+ buttons.

  5. I have DirecTV, formerly had Comcast, and own an Apple TV.

    DirecTV is much better than Comcast because you can access a single DVR from multiple TVs and the months charges are significantly lower (still way too high but lower).

    AppleTV is much easier to use and is video on demand.

    DirecTV has about 800 channels. It’s pain to find the channel you want. For instance, if you want to watch a Houston Astros game, you may have to scroll through 800 channels and you may find it on 2 or 3 different channels. But some of the won’t give you the program. Instead you get an error message saying this channel isn’t authorized. Pain in the you know what.

    I’m paying for 800 channels but only using a few of them and then only occasionally. If I could get live sports on Apple TV, I would dump DirecTV in a heartbeat.

  6. I am a DirecTV customer, a former Comcast customer, and an AppleTV customer.

    DirecTV is a lot better than Comcast in terms of monthly cost and the ability to access DVR recordings from several TVs.

    Apple TV is much more user friendly.

    Just finding which channel an NBA game or baseball game is on can be challenging with DirecTVs nearly 800 channels. I hate it when I find a the Houston Astro game I’m looking for and then am told the game is blacked out on this channel. The user interface isn’t very good. Apple can solve that.

    I would dump DirecTV and Comcast if I could get live sports from Apple. All I really want from Comcast is a dumb pipe to the Internet (no programming).

    • joeYYY

      You can get some live sports content on the Apple TV that you should purchase a subscription for. This includes MLB, NBA, and NHL. The subscription is usually for the whole season, but it is bound to the stadard (and archaic) blackout rules for your home team.
      In addition, with an iPad you can steam through AirPlay more live sports content such as MLS.
      Unfortunately, we still don’t have NFL as the league is still bound to multi year agreements with the TV networks.

      Still, in no way does it even come close to match the live sports content you can get through DirectTV, but it’s getting there.

  7. Julia Gomez

    iTunes, iCloud and Apple TV are compatible with Windows-only PCs. In fact, many more people using iTunes are on Windows than on Apple’s OS X. The notion that Apple products only with each other is at least two decades obsolete.

    Just about any TV show or movie can be obtained (rented or bought) from the iTunes Store. But, sometimes, for exclusive television content, such as HBO’s, you will be a season behind. This is the key difference between having premium channel cable TV subscriptions and cobbling together a budget scheme using Apple TV or a competitor, Netflix and/or Hulu Plus.

  8. dang1970

    Apple TV only works with other Apple products, so it’s limited to the wealthy Apple niche. There’s already 67 million XBox 360’s out there that access Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Videos and other content. It also plays games and DVDs. With Kinect, there’s alot of other possibilities for XBox.

    • joeYYY

      Wrong, the AppleTV can work great by itself and all you need to use it is an HDTV. It costs just 99$. I doubt the Xbox can beat this price.

    • Hamranhansenhansen

      $99 for a Netflix box with $7.99 per month subscription is the wealthy Apple niche?

      $399 for a 10-hour PC with $30 office suite and $5 HD video editor is the wealthy Apple niche?

      Truth is, Apple is cheaper when you add up all the costs (setup, maintenance, software, training.)

    • Robert

      AppleTV costs $99 and works with Macs or PCs. Certainly XBox offers a number of other streaming services relative to Apple’s limited offerings, but the AppleTV is hardly out of reach at $99

    • Divebus

      AppleTV is a standalone device that doesn’t require any outboard systems. If you have iTunes running on a Mac or PC, it’ll also reach in there and stream your music and movies.

      Valid point on the XBox’s, though. Why haven’t they capitalized on that? Just about every TV sold today can stream the same stuff and you don’t need an XBox or current AppleTV to do it.

      By the way, Apple isn’t a niche anymore and the users aren’t necessarily wealthy. The population is mostly comprised of people sick to death of all the other offerings failing them.

      • dang1970

        my bad, Apple TV does work with a PC. It’s still a long uphill climb for Apple TV, especially against the 67 million XBox’s. So, really, good luck with that. Gotta, go, gotta return the DVD I rented out of RedBox by the door of my local 7-11.

    • albee

      Surprising that the Xbox 360 still doesn’t play blu-ray discs out-of-the-box. Ps3 does everything stated here plus blu-ray playback. Rumor has it that apple may open up the apple tv for third-party developers, thus allowing things like premium channel apps and games, so the universe of apple tv may get a whole lot bigger in the near future.

    • Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (2001):
      ob·so·lete … v. -let-ed, -let-ing
      2 ob·so·lete verb \ˌäb-sə-ˈlēt, ˈäb-sə-ˌ\ transitive verb
      ob·so·lete   [ob-suh-leet, ob-suh-leet] adjective, verb, ob·so·let·ed, ob·so·let·ing.

  9. Apple TV won’t “obsolete DirectTV’s technology” because Tivo has obsoleted it years ago. Maybe AppelTV will finally kick the cable/satellite providers into the 21st century.

  10. Sergio de Oliveira

    Funny considering I just bought my 3rd Apple TV and cancelled my DirecTV subscription. Going with OTA into EyeTv software on a Mac which allows me to duplicate whole house DVR capabilities with no monthly cost. Got Netflix and the iTunes store to fill in the holes as far as premium channels go.

    • No offense, but I do not believe you are able to replicate DirecTV cobbling together OTA with Netflix, etc. Maybe you have a solution that is “good enough” for your personal viewing habits, but I get annoyed when folks pretend that such solutions are equal to the wide offerings of a service like DirecTV.

      • I disagree. I did the same thing 2 years ago. The only thing I sometimes miss is live sports. For me ESPN3 and MLB.TV are enough. Along with other web based live sports sources. (Google is your friend). I get annoyed when people claim that it makes sense to pay for 500 channels of crap, when I only want 10.

      • joeYYY

        It is not only good enough, but also better as you only get/pay for the content you want without the ton of garbage channels that comes in any typical directv/cable bundle. You also see this content without adds or previews.

        Sure, for some a solution like AppleTV will not be enough, but if you don’t care that much for live sports (some of it is also available on AppleTV) you will be satisfied and appreciate the great benefits.

        I am a cable cutter for almost two yeas and I love the AppleTV offering with Netflix and AirPlay mirroring from the iPad adds even more content to the mix.

      • Divebus

        I’d have to side with Sergio more than Doug on this one. I’ve got about the same thing here. Cobbled together it is, but it’s working for a whole lot less money than renting DirecTV boxes. With a little extra software, you can stream your EyeTV recordings to some of your many devices like TVs and Blu-Ray players. Of course, this is where you become a tinkerer and discover everyone interprets the standards differently. None of that will matter if someone can make it all work right out of the box. I don’t wonder who can pull that off.

      • Sergio de Oliveira

        Not a sports fan, so not missing anything there and yes, for my needs it works – all network shows get recorded through EyeTV and premium channels are handled by Netflix and buying seasons on iTunes.

    • There are millions of us rural folk that don’t have the bandwidth to do anything other than satellite. No cable, no DSL,etc. Having said that, I love my AppleTV on my internal home network and the ability to stream from several devices. I also like DirectTV for what it offers

  11. …which we will gladly sell them and throttle the ever-living-s*#% out of. Comcast throttles all connections to iTunes and have for years.