Pando

Is Apple desperate enough to cede control of its coming TV service to programmers?

By Nathaniel Mott , written on March 18, 2015

From The News Desk

Apple might finally have met its match.

The New York Post reports that the company is offering an inordinate amount of control to the cable companies that make their programming available on Apple’s upcoming video service.

Here’s what the Post had to say about Apple’s plans:

Apple, which is known for tightly controlling its ecosystem, is taking a more hands-off approach with programmers, such as letting them decide whether they want to air ads.

‘They’re allowing a lot more decision-making by the content owner,’ said one source familiar with the talks, adding that Apple has told potential partners, ‘It’s up to you, whatever you guys want to do.’ That’s strange. Apple isn’t known for giving media companies much control over how their content is presented to consumers. It manages the App Store, the iBookstore, and iTunes; nothing gets onto its products without first receiving its approval.

So there are two possibilities: either the Post’s source is exaggerating, or Apple feels that introducing a streaming service is important enough that it’s willing to cede some of the control it’s won over the last decade to make it happen.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the former. But if it’s the latter, it will be interesting to see how Apple continues to justify its stranglehold on other content when streaming video is managed by its creators, not the fruitiest of gatekeepers.

It’s not hard to imagine why content companies might want to retake some control over their products. Giving tech companies too much control over content leads to struggles like the one between Amazon and Hachette, and most companies don’t want that.

Besides, Apple’s products are only as good as the content they can be used to access. People don’t buy iPhones just for the hardware; they buy them for the App Store. The same could be said for iPads, MacBooks, and Apple’s other product lines.

So even though the Post’s source might have been talking shit just to rile Apple’s feathers, it’s actually fairly easy to see why Apple might have to loosen its iron grip to get what it wants. If it’s desperate enough, and content companies are wary about doing even more business with tech companies, Apple will likely pay almost any price to get its television service going.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]