4 Times Apple Shot Itself In The Foot Trying To Reach Streaming TV Deals

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Apple revolutionized the music market with the iPod and iTunes, then made traditional cellphones and laptops a thing of the past with the iPhone, yet it’s lagging behind Sony, Dish — and soon AT&T/DirecTV — in introducing a cable-replacement live-TV streaming service. Not for lack of trying. In fact, a new report claims that Apple has been trying too hard and has repeatedly talked its way out of giving cord-cutters an Apple video option.

The Wall Street Journal points to a number of hubristic moves by top Apple executives that appear to have turned off or baffled the TV industry folks the company had hoped to win over.

Here are a few select moments from the Journal story…

1. Trying to sell Disney on fixed rates:
Disney is one of the biggest players in broadcast and cable TV, owning its own namesake channels along with ABC and ESPN — the most expensive channel on most folks’ basic cable bills.

The company has already made some of its channels available for live-streaming on Dish’s SlingTV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue, and according to the Journal, Disney CEO Bob Iger was eager to make a deal with Apple for its in-development live-stream service.

Thing is, Apple exec Eddy Cue reportedly demanded that Disney agree to freeze its per-subscriber charge to Apple for several years, rather than the traditional model of yearly increases.

Disney said no to the offer, as did Fox and CBS.

You may remember Cue as the guy who admitted in court that he and Steve Jobs had tried to convince Amazon to stop selling music if Apple agreed to not get into the e-book business. That deal also never materialized, and Apple’s overzealous deals with e-book publishers ended up in the companies being sued by the U.S. Justice Department.

2. We Don’t Want All Your Channels:
The Journal notes that Apple saw the potential for live-streaming TV back in 2009, and even offered to pay broadcasters more than they were getting for cable companies.

Alas, Apple only wanted to pay for specific channels, rather than the “all-in” bundles that content companies force on pay-TV providers.

On the one hand, that could be a positive for consumers, if they were paying Apple a lower price for fewer channels. On the other, it would set a precedent that the broadcasters don’t want to set.

Part of the issue in the Apple live-TV adventure is that neither it nor the broadcasters are desperate enough to each a deal that would shake the industry up.

As the Journal points out, Apple’s $1 billion annual revenue from its TV business is less than half a percent of the company’s total yearly sales.

Meanwhile, one TV exec tells the Journal that the broadcast industry might be challenges right now, “but we’re not waiting for this white knight to come racing in the way music was.”

3. Trying To Nickel & Dime The Nickel & Dimers:
In 2011, Apple execs met with Comcast and Time Warner Cable to discuss selling their video feeds through Apple-made set-top boxes. Apple would even make it so the cable giants did all the selling and customer service.

So how did this not happen? Per the Journal, Apple wanted a cut of $10/month per subscriber, and — in a bit of irony, considering its stance in the Disney negotiations — refused to freeze that rate, meaning Apple could seek a higher share of subscriptions in the future.

The cable execs also wanted to see what Apple’s user interface would be like on the proposed service, but only got a vague promise that it would be “better than anything you’ve ever had.”

4. Do The Negotiating For Us:
PlayStation Vue users know that the service only offers local broadcast affiliate access in certain markets, and SlingTV only recently began testing live local TV in a handful of cities.

That’s because — aside from a few affiliates in the nation’s largest markets — most local network TV stations are not owned by the networks. So live-streaming services can make a deal with CBS and others that includes local access to stations owned by the network, but if you want access for independently owned stations, you’ll have to talk to them.

Yet, according to the Journal, Eddy Cue tried to talk the major networks into putting together some sort of deal with these third-party affiliates, effectively asking the networks to negotiate on behalf of companies they don’t own.

At this point, Apple may choose to never take on the hassle of starting its own live-TV streaming service, especially as pay-TV operators react to FCC set-top box regulations by accelerating their shift to app-based TV access. Rather than get into the billing and customer service mess of becoming a de facto cable company, Apple will choose to just sell good devices for accessing live-streaming content sold by others.

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