With TV technology, the grass is not always greener on the other side – at least not yet
Potential cord-cutters may dream of losing their cable TV bills, look forward to a new Apple TV model, but streaming quality remains far below the standards many viewers have come to expect
I have owned an Apple TV device ever since Apple introduced the hockey puck sized model in September of 2010 and I consider it a life-changing device, almost on par with the iPhone. With the Apple TV I can stream music, photos and video to my HDTV, watch films and TV shows, view kittens playing the piano via YouTube (that’s all there is on YouTube, right?), and more.
But for those who do not own an Apple TV, but have heard the talk about Apple introducing a new model, and with it their own subscription service, a word of warning: don’t expect service as good as cable (or satellite) TV.
There is no doubt that television is a medium that is changing as radically as the music business has this past decade. The cable companies know it, they are scrambling to redo contracts with content providers as quickly as they can to make sure they have the right to allow their customers to access programming on mobile devices. They know that they days of the family gathering around the television on a Saturday night are as dead as Bonanza and Bewitched.
But Apple even has their doubts about whether we really are ready for TV 100 percent dependent on streaming. The company informed content providers that they will be responsible for their streams, not Apple. That’s good, of course, as anyone who watched Apple’s stream last fall, with its Chinese voiceover, knows Apple sucks at streaming.
Complicating matters is the fact that many Americans still have lousy broadband Internet. This will change over time, but even more access to higher broadband speeds won’t guarantee better streaming. I have Comcast and usually my service delivers speeds exceeding 120 Mbps, yet that doesn’t not help my Apple TV viewing when the “channel” in question cannot deliver reliable streams themselves.
Anyone who is a subscriber to MLB At Bat knows just how bad streaming TV can be.
Now, with the Apple TV adding HBO Now to their channel offerings, a number of viewers are today considering if it is time to cut the cord. At $15 a month, it will be interesting to see if HBO gains a large number of viewers, or if a large number of existing viewers switch over to a streaming service. Like Netflix, HBO’s streaming channel is generally pretty good (at last compared to MLB), but it might not be as good as cable if the viewer is issues with their broadband Internet.
But the Apple TV is not the only TV device, of course. It is good to keep in mind that many young TV viewers long ago cut the cord, especially when in university, and are used to the hiccups associated with streaming services. For the them, the future is now.
Likewise, for print publishers who today see the condition of the Apple Newsstand, and hear media gurus speak of the enduring attraction of print, one should remember that a whole new generation of readers are digital natives. For them, reading via a mobile device is not a novelty, it is the norm – just as those who watch their TV through devices other than cable boxes see streaming as the norm.