WILL APPLE’S “HOBBY” BECOME A BUSINESS?
After famously calling his company’s Apple TV settop box “a hobby,” and devoting little effort to marketing it, Apple Chairman Steve Jobs on Wednesday unveiled an all-new and improved — and relatively cheap — Apple TV, designed primarily to bring streaming online, on-demand video to television sets, with or without a computer. Users of the device will be able to “rent” movies and TV shows from Apple’s iTunes store (99 cents for TV shows; $2.99-4.99 for movies) or from Netflix for nothing (if they’re subscribers). Apple’s movies and TV fare will be provided by 20th Century Fox and the Fox Network; BBC America; and from Disney Channel, ABC-TV, and ABC Family. (Jobs is Disney’s largest stockholder.) Analysts suggested that the success of the venture is likely to depend on whether other media groups, particularly NBC and CBS, agree to provide content and whether the content that will initially be offered is fresh and compelling. Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman and CEO Jim Gianopoulos said in a statement, “We’ve enjoyed a long and valuable relationship with Apple and we’re excited to be working with them over the next several months to explore this innovative offering.” But the operative words in the statement may have been “over the next several months,” since Fox apparently has made no longterm commitment to the enterprise. And one unnamed studio chief predicted in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, “If we head down this path, we’re starting down the same slippery slope where the music business went.” But in announcing the company’s latest move on Wednesday, Jobs said, “We think the other studios will see the light and get on board.” Meanwhile, in apparent reaction to Apple’s latest move, Amazon.com cut the price on its online TV rentals to 99 cents from $2.99.