Do you hate your cable TV provider? It seems a lot of us do, and yet most of us keep paying month after month so we can keep up to date with what's happening on the Jersey Shore, how our favorite team is doing, or who is winning on Idol. While more and more content is being offered online, cutting the cable still seems a bit too extreme for all but the bravest (or most disinterested) television viewers.
Apple wants to make it easier for us to take that big step, apparently. According to a Wall Street Journal article (subscription required), both CBS and ABC are considering Apple's plan to offer a $30/month subscription TV service offered up via iTunes. That would bring CBS, The CW, ABC & ABC Family and The Disney Channel all under the iTunes umbrella. If you don't have a WSJ sub you can read more about this potential deal at Electronista or Engadget.
MG Siegler at TechCrunch is apparently overjoyed by the possibility of paying Apple instead of paying the cable company. While I agree that something has to be done about the poor customer service and high prices of most cable providers, I don't think Apple's subscription service, at least as it's being talked about now, is the solution.
For one thing, until they can get Fox and NBC (lots of luck with that, given Comcast's new stake in NBC) on board, very few people will see this as a replacement for cable. And let's not forget all the smaller but still worth-having channels like Discovery, SyFy, National Geographic, the Comedy Channel and so on. In fact one could argue that these second tier channels are more important than the big networks given that in many areas you can pull in the major networks over-the-air. The point being, if Apple can't give you all the channels you want, then you'll need to keep your cable subscription, making Apple's offering redundant.
Assuming they can get enough channels on board to get you to sign up, you still need an internet connection, obviously, and for many people that still comes via the cable company. If Apple's subscription service started to get traction I'd expect the cable companies to start introducing bandwidth caps and tiered service to regain some of their lost revenue. I also wonder what the impact would be on existing internet services if a majority of users all started streaming high-def content every evening on a regular basis. Google can't manage to keep YouTube streaming smoothly during primetime. Could Apple do a better job?
And lastly, moving to Apple just feels like trading one tyrant for another. Doesn't Apple have enough power with it's iPod/iPhone/iTunes ecosystem as is? Do we really want to hand over our television viewing to them as well? You'd have to buy Apple hardware (Apple TV probably) to stream your Apple subscription to your TV. For Apple fans that probably sounds fine, but not all of us are Apple fans.
As a Comcast user, I pay a stupid amount for fairly basic TV service every month and I'm often heard muttering about canceling my service. I agree something need to be done to force the cable providers to be more competitive. I wish I had a solution to offer; I don't. But neither am I ready to climb into bed with Apple just to keep episodes of The Big Bang Theory flowing into my living room.