There is a rumor being floated around the web today that Apple has been approaching the television networks with an eye to creating television subscriptions through their iTunes service. Word has it that the price of the subscription will be around the $30.00 range.
Sure you can already get complete seasons of individual shows through iTunes but this is a totally different beast. You would be getting the networks whole output of network programming.
All I can say to this is – I sure hope they pull it off.
While Martin Bryant at The Next Web points out that network executives might be a tad reluctant to walk down the same path that the music industry has with Apple this would be a big win for the consumer and in the end it could be a win for the networks.
However there’s a real big problem that would need to be overcome for this to be a major game changer in the television industry and it all boils down to one word.
For those of you who may not have heard of the term before it basically boils down to being able to view or listen to content based on your geographical location. The best example to give regarding geotarding would be Hulu for video and Pandora for music. With either service if you live primarily outside of the US you are shit out of luck.
Now recently Hulu has been making deals with broadcasting companies outside of the US principally England and I understand that Pandora is continually trying to work deals to expand their user base in other countries.
Sure we might like to yell and scream at companies like Hulu and Pandora for doing this geotarding but in reality it’s not totally their fault. In many cases it is a combination of country laws and copyright laws that stop us from being able to access these services.
I can’t talk about other countries but I know here in Canada that when it comes to both television and radio, which companies like Hulu and Pandora would fall under, our country has some exceptionally archaic laws that were enacted back in the 1970’s. These laws were originally intended to protect our cultural identity by forcing Canadian radio and television companies to carry a certain percentage of Canadian made content.
For example any US television networks that wants to make it’s content available to Canadians has to sell it, or go through, a Canadian broadcaster. If a cable network wants to show it’s content in whole above the 49th parallel then it must have a Canadian company. This is why you have Discovery Canada, or SyFy opening up in Canada as Space TV, it was also the reason why CourtTV (before changing their name to truTV) got yanked from Canadian cable and had to open up CourtTV Canada.
When it gets to music things get a little murkier as it becomes a combination of regulations and copyrights. When it comes to the copyrights part it is important to remember that in most cases there is no one single global copyright system – each country has their own copyrights so for a US radio station to play music in Canada they need to pay for Canadian copyright licence on top of already buying a US copyright license.
In the case of Pandora they tried to do this but the Canadian copyright holders were asking such exorbitant amounts of money that Pandora had to walk away from the table. No multiple this problem for all the countries in the world where you want people to be able to hear your music or see your video.
So what does all this have to do with Apple?
Well it all boils down to what a good friend of mine refers to a might makes right. In the case of music Apple is the current powerhouse that everyone in the industry knows that they will have to play with. As much as I may not like Apple they have brought a leveling of the playing field to the downloadable music business. The consumer for the most part has been the big winner in this.
There is no denying that our copyright and governmental regulations surrounding are behind the times and desperately need to be changed. The problem is that the way it is now is benefiting everyone except the consumer.
So here we have Apple, the powerhouse that has help to change the music industry, now interested in getting into provide television network programming at what has to be admittedly a reasonable price. If anyone could possibly influence change in at least the copyright part of the problem it would have to be Apple. Definitely the regulation part – especially in Canada would be the hard nut to crack.
However in this move I am definitely rooting for Jobs and company to at least start the roller coaster of change that would come about with an iTunes TV subscription.
In the end it could be a big win for the consumer.
note: I got Martin’s name wrong but have now corrected it. I knew it wasn’t Michael especially since I had his post open at the time of writing. Sorry about that Martin.