WSJ: Apple In Talks With Cable Providers

Apple TV

Jessica E. Vascellaro and Shalani Ramachandran:

Apple Inc. is in talks with some of the biggest U.S. cable operators about letting consumers use an Apple device as a set-top box for live television and other content, according to people familiar with the matter.

[…] The talks illustrate that Apple is seeking a less radical path to expand in television than it has contemplated in the past, namely teaming up with existing service providers rather than licensing content to compete with them directly.

Amidst the steadily worsening quantity of rumors regarding the purported 7-inch iPad and new iPhone, the thought occurred to me that I hadn’t heard much of Apple’s mythical television efforts in quite some time. Right on cue, the Wall Street Journal has chimed in with a deflationary post regarding the potential consequences of Apple’s entry into such a space.

Given the establishment of the Wall Street Journal as an frequent leaking ground for Apple PR, the timing of such a news item seems awfully convenient for Cupertino. As expectations and hopes regarding Apple’s television entry have begun to utterly evolve beyond the bounds of reality, a well-timed piece of news metering the consumer vision of such a product makes plenty of sense — particularly with a view to the incessant beat of iPhone and iPad rumors set to quickly wash away any consumer letdown or concern.

With that said, it’s important to remember that despite the Wall Street Journal’s obvious penchant for Apple PR-driven news, this may well be an exception. Accordingly, rather than treating such an item as canonical fact, until confirmed by Apple, it’s endlessly important to remember that this and, indeed, all of the news regarding smaller iPads and thinner iPhones, reside within the bounds of rumor. Nothing more.

Aziz Ansari Independently Releases Stand-Up Show

Aziz Ansari

Following the path paved by Mr. Louis C.K., Aziz Ansari has today released an independent, digital-only stand-up show. Available from his website for $5, Aziz's show, 'Dangerously Delicious,' continues an evident trend toward the abandonment of traditional media distribution methods.

Louis C.K. famously found rapid success from this model -- his show making over $500,000 in four days. Although initially conceived as an experiment, Mr. C.K.'s success certainly lends credence to the independent method.

It's unquestionably a cause worth supporting. 'Dangerously Delicious' is available here.

Reuters: Netflix In Talks For Cable Partnership

Following some off-handed comments by Reed Hastings last month, rumors have been swirling regarding Netflix's potential relationship with cable providers. Today, reporting for Reuters, Yinka Adegoke and Lisa Richwine write:

Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings has quietly met with some of the largest U.S. cable companies in recent weeks to discuss adding the online movie streaming service to their cable offerings, according to sources familiar with matter.

In an increasingly competitive market, maneuvering to ensure greater visibility and ubiquity is certainly a cosmetically intelligent decision. Of potentially greater importance, however, is the implication this may hold for Netflix's impact on the bandwidth of the end-user:

Offering Netflix through a cable package could help the streaming service avoid a separate potential clash with cable operators over rising costs for online video traffic over their Internet pipes. Cable operators are the dominant high speed Internet providers in the U.S. and have been trying to devise methods to manage their costs and traffic of online video.

Netflix - long perceived as the means for the downfall of cable - is being getting into bed with its ideological enemy. Perhaps metered Internet usage is an inevitability, but the necessitation of such a deal strikes me as entirely distasteful.

I'm in favor of a robust and ubiquitous means for distributing on-demand content, but this seems principally problematic to me. The problem is not that there isn't any sense to such a decision - there is plenty - what bothers me is the unattractive prospect of such an alliance.

You might argue that Netflix is simply supplanting itself into hostile waters to further facilitate the fall of cable. There is a great deal of merit to such a perspective but, having said that, I tend to air on the side of pessimism. With a fluctuating stock price, the disaster of 2011 behind it, and its movements toward original content pressing onward, Netflix is obviously targeting HBO and its business model. Rather than existing alone and apart, Netflix is angling to become a premium tier of your cable service.

The problem with such a decision, in my eyes, is that the potential of Netflix extends far beyond the bounds of cable. HBO clearly feels threatened by Netflix's presence and, with original content, Netflix stands a fantastic chance of undercutting the relevance of cable and forcing HBO out of the cable-exclusive waters. But, under pressure, Reed Hastings appears to be embracing a somewhat skewed plan in favor of the cable providers he originally sought to undermine.

I have long supported Netflix but this move cuts away at its core structure of beliefs, and that is an awful shame.

Amazon Hiring Creative Executives for Original Content

Following reports of an impending standalone media service from Amazon, GigaOM has stumbled across two job postings on Amazon's corporate careers site searching for creative executives. Ryan Lawler reports:

Add Amazon to the list of online video providers that could soon release some new original programming. The company is looking to hire creative executives to develop and produce original comedies and kids shows for online and traditional distribution.

Original content is set to define the forthcoming industry shift toward streaming media. Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Amazon are now actively developing original content and, in doing so, are lending their clout toward undercutting the de facto dominance of cable networks.

Keen to rest on their laurels, cable networks have left themselves vulnerable to the innovative foresight of these Internet giants. While cable networks may not fall any time soon, the evident recognition of the importance of original content bodes well for the prospects of Amazon and the like. 

Streaming vast libraries of digital content is all well and good, but offering something tangibly different is going to be of the utmost importance over the course of the next few years. Building this upon their robust digital distribution networks, fortune is entirely in their favor, unlike the bloated and ineffective Big Media companies we are all so pleasantly accustomed to.

Considering Amazon's extensive investments over the past quarter, it's only a matter of time before we begin to see the fruits of their labor and, if these job postings are any indication, it's certainly set to be an interesting competition between Amazon and Netflix.

"Dear HBO"

M.G. Siegler:

If you could remove your lips from the cable company teet for a minute, you’d find hundreds of thousands — and likely millions — of customers happy to pay a premium for access to HBO Go without the cable requirement right now. That number is only going to grow. And fast.

Content is king, and you have the best content. If you do go cable-optional, a few of the cable companies may try to boycott you. But the ensuing customer relations shitstorm will only prove your value and will hasten the arrival of the post-cable world. You can lead this revolution.

Couldn't agree more.