The long-rumoured introduction of Apple’s subscription streaming service, heralded by many as signalling a paradigm shift in the pay-TV landscape, in the end, came to nothing.
It looked like an easy decision to make, and one long in the works. Having sold over 700 million iPhones, and already identified by Adobe Digital Index as accounting for the majority of all premium video viewing content, Apple would have a fairly significant head start in dominating the pay-TV market. If anyone looked like they had the clout to corral the different providers, it was Apple, but despite positive signs, it looks as though the vagaries of content licencing were just a bridge too far, and the tech giant’s wheels were left spinning in the mud.
But aside from the licensing complexities that still are a huge deciding factor in today’s fragmented TV landscape, the fact that Apple didn’t launch the service raises an interesting issue that needs to be addressed. It’s been speculated that Apple’s service would act as just the portal through which content is accessed, leaving the delivery model up to the likes of CBS, Discovery and other such providers. It would thereby effectively position itself as an extension to their sales and marketing divisions, which would have made for a high risk model.
As we all know, quality of experience is key to maintaining the trust of customers. If Apple was to just provide the gateway to the content, and not take up the burden of delivery itself – a decision that admittedly makes total sense from an infrastructure point of view – it would potentially open itself up to negative factors influencing elements of its service, the individual streams, that it wouldn’t have been able to address directly. If the overall experience was subject to the vicissitudes of the each providers’ fundamentally different delivery models, rather than being a totally unified ecosystem, there’s a chance that Apple might not have been able to guarantee quality for its subscribers, who after all, are the most important factor here.
Consumers rarely blame the channel for buffering problems or delays during a stream, they blame the service it’s streamed through, (even if it is a problem in the network or with the CDN – pipelines the general public don’t truly ‘see’). Apple’s service and brand would have been front and centre, so it would of course be imperative that the quality of service was of the highest calibre. Our own research found that 75 percent of consumers will stop watching streams within four minutes if it is of poor quality– Apple would have had to get it right from the outset.
Apple has consistently positioned itself at the high-end, providing premium products at premium prices, a trend continued by the announcements at WWDC. A core part of its value is built on the foundation that consumers see it as brand that delivers ‘quality’, and if Apple had realised there was even a small chance of the service not meeting the incredibly high standards it sets for itself, it may have been a deciding factor in the decision to pull the plug or delay the launch.