Predictions are a tricky thing. Some are straightforward – American Pharoah's historic win at the Belmont Stakes to become the 12th Triple Crown winner – and some, not so – American Pharoah's shocking defeat at Travers Stakes. To distract us from R+L=J (or R+L=J+M), Apple's September 9th event is fueling the fires of speculation. Let's look into our crystal ball and discuss which potential announcements will carry the most weight for media publishers.
Apple will unveil the fourth generation Apple TV (1-100 odds) It's been over two and a half years since the third- generation "Rev A" Apple TV. While affordable and functional, its features and capabilities haven't kept pace with the rest of Apple's offerings. The smart money – like backing Ronda Rousey – is on a fourth-generation Apple TV with a refreshed design and a more powerful A8 chip. With an increase of cached storage to 16GB, Siri voice control, and a new Force Touch-enabled remote, Apple TV will lighten your wallet by $149-$199, which is a significant premium from today's $69 price point.
We're never disappointed – to borrow from Daft Punk – with faster, better, stronger. However, there are a few improvements that are more intriguing.
The addition of Universal Search (1-10 odds) that utilizes Siri would enable users to search Apple TV content from both iTunes and video streaming services. That makes the Force Touch-enabled remote much more than a simple refresh; instead, the remote will also serve as an input for voice control and as a game controller. To operate all these new features, Apple TV will run an optimized version of iOS 9 (1-50 odds).
What Media Publishers Want to Hear
So, let's parlay our winnings thus far and put the pieces together: Higher performance hardware on par with the latest iPhones and similar to the iPad Air 2 (which uses the A8X)... an OS upgrade to the same version which will soon be used by mobile iOS devices… a controller that's useful if you expand to gaming… ability to search for content across a broad range of video services… which lead us to the most exciting announcements: Apple will create an "open" Apple TV App Store (5-1 odds), which will support apps using a new Apple TV SDK based on iOS 9 (2-1 odds) to enable UHD (4K, HDR, HFR) content on Apple TV (5-1 odds).
With a footprint of more than 25MM devices, Apple TV is the leading streaming media device by market share on a global basis; if it were an MVPD, its audience would be second only to the combined AT&T/DirecTV. Since the introduction of the iPad, Apple has successfully established a platform for media publishers to deliver and monetize premium content on mobile devices. If Apple removes or significantly simplifies the current curation process to put content on the Apple TV App Store, media publishers have a new and substantial opportunity to extend the touch points with their audience and create a truly multi-screen video experience to drive engagement and continuity of viewing across desktop (the office), television (the living room), and mobile (everywhere). As the current AirPlay model of "slinging" content from mobile devices to Apple TV is fairly limited, publishers could create a more unified mobile-Apple TV experience with sophisticated apps on both devices. With the aforementioned Universal Search, media publishers will be able to both promote exclusive content and differentiate their content programming, as Universal Search will expose content gaps in competitive offerings.
Media publishers will establish their presence on Apple TV to stand toe-to-toe with their peers and competitors. Previously, digital executives could explain away their absence: "Apple made me (not) do it." The conversation will now change to: "When will we be on Apple TV?" And at Brightcove, we're ready to help. Today, media publishers can take advantage our existing iOS SDK, FairPlay Streaming, and server-side ad insertion capabilities, and we're preparing for the new Apple TV platform. Stay turned.
What We’ll be Listening For
UHD (4K, High Dynamic Range, High Frame Rate) has progressed from crawling to standing and is now slowly stumbling forward. Television manufacturers kicked off the 4K bandwagon in 2013; however, adoption has been a slow burn at 14% of monthly global shipments. Although UHD and its associated and dependent technologies are still in a state of maturation – in some cases due to licensing issues (HEVC Advance, MPEG LA) and competing technologies (Alliance for Open Media) – Apple TV can be a catalyst for this transformative stage of UHD adoption, akin to the transformative impact of the iPod and iTunes on the digital music industry. As a result of the transition to UHD, media publishers will need to rethink their entire end-to-end content workflow: production, ingest, encoding, storage, delivery, playback, and – most importantly – monetization. This enhanced viewing experience will become a differentiator. As theaters created more compelling movie experiences – 3D, Dolby Atmos, IMAX, HFR – media publishers will race to not only ensure they offer premium content but to uplevel the viewing experience for their audience.
While we’re not likely to see a new streaming TV service from Apple yet, a new "open" Apple TV will be a watershed moment for the industry. Statista predicts that revenue from online video will nearly double from $7.5B last year to almost $14B in 2020. Apple has proven to be a market disruptor, and its users are passionate followers. With the refresh of Apple TV as a more powerful device for consumers and a more accessible platform for media publishers, Apple adds significant momentum to reaching the online video market's potential.
Expectations are high, and no media publisher will want to be left behind in the race to reach the Apple massive captive audience in the living room. To borrow from The Rock, only tomorrow we'll smell what Tim is Cook-ing.