CBS CEO Leslie Moonves told a UCLA Entertainment Symposium audience on Saturday that Steve Jobs approached him a year ago to provide content for a potential television subscription service for Apple.
The network television boss declined the offer, but it brings up some interesting questions as to whether Apple will ever join the streaming video market, or even if the company could break into it at all.
At the conference, Moonves told a room full of entertainment lawyers that Apple’s former CEO pitched him an idea that he called a subscription content service, but the idea did not interest him.
“I told Steve, ‘You know more than me about 99 percent of things but I know more about the television business,’ ” Moonves said.
Why has Apple had such a hard time breaking into the subscription-based streaming television and movie sector of entertainment? The company turned the music industry upside-down by making digital purchasing popular with iTunes. Smart phones and tablets will never be the same thanks to the App Store. For some reason, Apple hasn’t made its mark in the subscription streaming market. There is a good chance that it never will.
If the most valuable company in the world can’t get a network like CBS on board, then it may be that Apple is just not meant to be in the content streaming industry. Netflix popularized the idea of streaming TV and movies on-demand from your television and Amazon capitalized on that same venture, offering free content to Amazon Prime subscribers. Hulu Plus upped the anti by uploading television shows the day after they aired. What would be left for Apple to do that would make its version stand out above the three most popular video streaming services? The company would have to come up with a pretty fancy package in order to wow network heads.
One thing that Apple has going for it is the ease of accessibility of content. The company could incorporate apps into its subscription streaming service that might entice viewers to take advantage of an ‘a la carte’ style experience. ABC, NBC, CBS, Showtime and HBO could all have their own apps within the service that users could browse through. Instead of dividing content by genre, like “action films” or “sitcoms”, it could be divided by network or distributor. Imagine being able to scroll through all movies that New Line Cinema released, or accessing television shows exclusive to Comedy Central. More than an original content provider, Apple could capitalize on the subscription-based media streaming model by redesigning the user experience, something that the company is famous for.
Apple could have an advantage over other services like Netflix and Hulu if they utilized their unique and innovative design team to create an attractive infrastructure that draws new viewers in. A perfect example of how Apple has already accomplished a similar feat is in the difference between the user interface of Netflix on the Roku versus Netflix on Apple TV. They both offer the same content, but Apple’s design is much more intuitive and attractive. I have a Roku because it includes Hulu Plus, but I always switch to the Apple TV whenever I want to stream Netflix or watch videos on YouTube because it looks better and is easier to browse around on.
If Apple wants to convince network executive that it has what it takes to make people switch from Netflix or Amazon, it should start looking at its design team for help.