By Brice Le Blévennec
Talking about a revolution
This September, Apple stages its fourth iTunes Festival, taking place once more in London. Thirty nights of free music with 60 top bands. The festival is slightly different form others, as Apple discretely inaugurated a little revolution in 2011, that they continue to build on this year!
This year Apple magically added a new iTunes Festival app on every Apple TV 2, that allows you full HD streaming on your large flat screen, even if you don’t own an iPad or iPhone!
For those of us Europeans who cannot simply hop on a Eurostar train and visit the Kingdom’s capital, Apple put up an app on the App Store, called “iTunes Live”. This app doesn’t only present the festival’s exceptionally high quality programme (including Jack White, Norah Jones, P!nk, David Guetta, Lana Del Rey and many others) but it streams live all the concerts at “broadcast” quality, available for iPads and iPhone, for FREE.
If you happen to have an Apple TV 2 connected to your television, you can use the Airplay function to receive this content on a wide screen at a superb quality.
More than meets the eye
This implies much more than just a minor technological attribute. By providing this service, Apple has proven that its infrastructure is capable of transmitting live high-definition large-scale images. Apple has already distributed television programmes using “catch-up” (via podcasts), entire series (sold at 2 US dollars per episode), and films (on rent or for sale, SD or HD).
The major advantage of traditional broadcasters was their ability to distribute live major events, including sports (Olympic games, World Cup), culture (Eurovision, reality-shows), or news (elections, natural catastrophes, etc.). This is no longer the case.
Having gained access to all the puzzle’s pieces, Apple can now go for a massive attack against the television industry. As it already has its own content distribution platform (iTunes) as well as terminals (iPad, iPhone, etc.), Apple is now further deploying its cloud (iCloud) which will make large-scale multi-screen streaming possible.
Traditionally, TV stations have built their business model on two main pillars. The first is advertising; a production company sells audiovisual content (games, entertainment, sporting events, etc.) to distributors who will generate revenues by offering airtime to media agencies who will then represent advertisers. The second source of income is selling their signal; nowadays, digital platforms like Telenet, Voo and Belgacom TV pay TV channels for the right to include them in their channel offer.
Given that selling their content to the operators is the only source of revenues for production companies, the latter are in a weak position vis-à-vis the TV channels. More importantly, they see no profits from the actual broadcasting of their content, neither through advertisement, nor remuneration from the telecom providers. Thanks to Apple, production companies now have a historic opportunity to significantly increase the financial value of their products.
And the production companies can add further value by creating and marketing ‘cross media’ campaigns for their initial production. An example is the web production with games and interactive content linked to “The Spiral” a TV series that now runs in 8 countries. On www.thespiral.eu (created by Emakina’s PKA Wanabe) the thrill of the episodes continues, keeping the audience on board longer and in a more interactive way.
It’s the end of the world as we know it
Potentially, just as it did with music, Apple has the power to revolutionise the television industry.
Using a special AppStore for the Apple TV 2, content producers could avoid the entire traditional industry cycle and reach viewers directly. Imagine, for example, that UEFA could offer viewers to watch the Champions League on their little screens, without having to deal with TV channels. It can even allow football fans to chat among themselves while watching the match… This would mark a drastic change, reshuffling the cards among the industry’s players.
Bear in mind that Apple does not only hold its own application store, but also an advertisement platform, known as iAd. This allows reaching consumers more intelligently and in a more targeted manner than 30 seconds TV spots that are broadcast massively throughout the day. A new “ecosystem” is thus developing, preparing itself to be activated and deployed across the planet. All that’s left is wait for the arrival of the Apple TV 2 App Store, probably sometime next year.
On ‘Daring Fireball’, John Gruber seems to think along the same lines when saying that “apps are the new channels”. He states that “it’d be better for both viewers and the networks if a TV “channel” were an interactive app rather than a mere single stream of video.
So this is the announcement of the end of the world as we know it. Or, to say it with Apple’s words: “You’re gonna need a better couch.“