Apple Abandons Streaming 'Cable TV' Replacement

John Lister's picture

Apple has reportedly ditched plans to launch an Internet-based alternative to cable TV. It is said to have failed to convince channel providers to back its plan for a cheap, basic subscription package.

It's no secret that Apple has been working on such an offering for some time. The idea was to use gadgets such as the Apple TV box to offer a package that replaces the need for cable TV altogether, rather than simply supplementing it.

Had the plan worked, it would have been the next stage of so-called "cord cutting." That's the trend for people refer to as "cutting" the their cable or satellite TV providers subscriptions (either completely or partly), and then using pay-for-streaming Internet services for premium programming, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

While the overall level of cord cutting is often overstated, the cable industry is undoubtedly concerned about its long-term future. For example, many college undergraduates already use some sort of streaming to watch their favorite televisions shows while away from home, and will likely continue to do so long after they graduate. Hence the 'habit' of purchasing cable or satellite TV is likely to be phased out in the coming generation of adults.

'Basic' Packages Still Overweight & Overpriced

The problem is that many customers still want to have some of their favorite stations, which aren't currently available online. In many cases (for example), the local cable TV provider requires users to pay for a package with 50 to 100 channels if they are to get cable TV at all. The only other real alternative is to get channels over-the-air with a digital aerial, but that's subject to reception issues.

Apple's idea was to offer a basic package which had around a dozen of the most popular networks and cost around $30 a month or less. Customers would then have the option to pay for additional tiers in the same way as cable TV works. They could also buy premium channels on a standalone basis, as is already available online for HBO. (Source:

Apple Flexes Muscle, But Networks Don't Swoon

While many companies have tried such an approach, Apple is said to have believed its strength in the tech world would have been enough to convince TV stations to sign up to its program.

The theory was that if its seemingly inevitable that more and more people will opt for Internet-only TV, then stations may as well get on board with Apple now. It's also reported that Apple had been banking on the idea that its experience in producing simple and reliable user interfaces would have won over customers who felt that streaming television would have been too complicated.

Unfortunately for Apple, it seems the TV content providers simply weren't interested. They want to continue to use bundling tactics by which a cable company offers its customers a popular station, then also force them to pay fees for less popular stations owned by the same company. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Would you switch to getting TV solely through Internet streaming (such as via a set-top box) if you could get a basic package for $30? Are the TV networks right to hold out for now, or should they embrace cord cutting? Do you think Internet-only television can ever work, given so many people get their broadband service from a cable TV provider?

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Dennis Faas's picture

It's only a matter of time until cable and satellite TV providers give in to the idea of what Apple is proposing. If Apple doesn't do it, someone else will, and the cable / satellite TV providers will see people dropping their massively over-priced subscriptions faster than you can say "eat this!"

Boots66's picture

In some ways Dennis, this is sadly true, as I really do enjoy being entertained by a whole variety of TV shows of all genres, BUT I am also becoming very angered at being gouged. Most providers like the one I have in Edmonton supply my internet as well as TV. Yes the CRTC has said they have to develop software that will allow them the ability to offer individual channels and stop forcing subscribers to buy packages.
The internet at this time has only a few levels but you seem to get what you pay for. BUT - TV Signal supply has been a sore point for years - you watch your bill go higher and higher, yet nothing in your subscription has changed!! What gives!!
Are the Cable suppliers deliberately trying to over-charge themselves out of business?
Now my local provider of Cable, has recently pulled even their basic service, now it is only available as a Digital signal for which you are gouged even more!
You can buy a 'refurbished' Digital Tuner from a discount either in standard or Hi-Def OR now be gouged monthly for a digital tuner rental - Seriously?
(Oh yes - your built-in TV tuner on your old style box TV or newer style Flat Screen TV is now totally useless) - The TV for all intents seems to be dead at least here,
you might as well look only for a multi-input monitor - Period!
I have been trying to find out, but it seems that the CRTC has now abandoned the Canadian Public, whereupon they were to legislate that basic TV was to be available for anyone with a TV no special digital tuner box needed OR the company was to supply one free-of-charge if they wanted to interfere in the basic TV signal broadcast. However my work partner inquired and it seems his answer he got, basically said the Cable suppliers can do whatever they want - it's competion in the marketplace!? What??!!

nate04pa's picture

1. In my town, there is no TV competition for Comcast other than over the air TV. For truly high speed internet, they are the only choice.

2. If you look at the channels available, you will see, in addition to over the air stations, a small number of desirable channels (ESPN, CNN, FS1, History Channel) and a large number of "niche" channels (Food Network, Game Show Network, Lifetime). The desirable channels support the niche channels. If viewers were offered a la carte channels, most of the niche channels would disappear. So we are forced to pay for channels we have no desire to watch.

3. I depend on Comcast for high speed internet and there is no other viable option. Verizon has no plans to offer FIOS here and satellite services cannot provide high speed internet either.

4. Therefore, Comcast has a monopoly here but there is very little control over pricing.

kitekrazy's picture

I was reading articles about the 4k TVs and most of the comments were about the quality of television shows don't justify the cost.

There are no longer great writers like Norman Lear. TV shows are just plain bad.
I seen a sitcom with Asians and it appears the only reason why was because there hasn't ever been a sitcom full of Asians. It's bad.

MTV/VH1 are all about immorality.

The History Channel is now another reality TV channel. (talk about an oxymoron)

There is no end to talk shows.

ESPN has destroyed sports journalism.

As for the pay movie channels it's like pulling out your DVD collection.

We ditched cable and don't miss it. On could entertain their self by watching Youtube. I spend a lot of time watching tutorials for software.

Cable has poor value because the entertainment is terrible.