Apple has introduced several enhancements to Apple TV that make it easier to access purchased TV programs. With the new software updates, Apple TV users can buy programs (in addition to renting) via Apple TV directly, and those programs will then also be available for complimentary download on other iOS devices. Additionally, it's now also possible to stream previously purchased programs in iTunes from the cloud to Apple TV, obviating the need for local storage. Apple's goals here are to deliver more viewing flexibility for purchased programs, and therefore hopefully to drive more consumption.
In addition, Apple TV has integrated Vimeo, so independently produced programs and movies hosted on the platform are now easily browsed and played. I downloaded the updates to my Apple TV and everything installed perfectly within minutes. It remains to be seen whether all content providers will buy into the plan, and give their blessing to cloud delivery.
The new streaming features are a nice step forward for Apple TV and are surely an indicator of more cloud-based services down the road. Coincidentally, I just noted earlier that sales of Apple TVs accelerated to almost 500K units in Q2, potentially providing hope that a reconfigured Google TV could find acceptance as well.
The downside here is that we're talking about purchased programs, which is still a niche market. No question, iTunes, and now Apple TV, make it very easy and tempting to purchase spontaneously. However, I continually hear the stories of buyer's remorse when the bills come in, thereby muting the scale of the purchasing model, an issue which I touched on last week with respect to Wal-Mart/Vudu's opportunity to extend from purchased downloads to subscriptions. The same logic applies to Apple.
Meanwhile, one limitation of Apple TV not addressed in this update is that AirPlay doesn't work for all content, in particular Hulu and HBO GO, which is frustrating. Apparently content providers can prevent AirPlay from working, and with the high stakes of pay-TV carriage agreements that's exactly what's being done.
VideoNuze is the authoritative online source for original analysis and news aggregation focused on the burgeoning online video industry. Founded in 2007 by Will Richmond, a 20-year veteran of the broadband, cable TV, content and technology industries, VideoNuze is read by executive-level decision-makers who need to get beyond the standard headlines and achieve a deep understanding of online video’s disruptive impact.