Apple Web Television Service Would Awaken A Sleeping Apple TV Giant

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Apple is set to launch a dedicated streaming TV service beginning in September, according to the Wall Street Journal. The offering would boast around 25 channels, including major broadcasters like ABC, CBS and Fox and would likely be priced around $30 or $40 a month, with an initial unveil in June (most likely at WWDC).

This follows an announcement from Apple at last week’s event that it would be the exclusive first digital TV partner for HBO Now, which is the cable network’s dedicated streaming service that is coming in April to Apple TV and iOS devices for $15 per month. The new service would offer more of a package similar to what Sling TV, the over-the-top offering from Dish, provides in its $20 micro bundle for streamers.

Apple is also talking to companies like Walt Disney and Fox, but the WSJ says it won’t include content from NBCUniversal because of a spat between Apple and NBC parent Comcast Corp. So long as the company can muster a good crop of the kind of popular specialty channels that typically trigger expensive bundle sales in traditional cable and satellite packages, though, that omission probably won’t be all that troubling to potential buyers – especially given that NBC is still available free OTA in most markets.

If Apple does indeed launch this service as planned, it’s hard to understate the potential value it can drive across its lineup of hardware offerings. The service would work with iPhone and iPad, as well as with Apple TV, but the Apple TV is where it could move the needle most.

Given this report, it seems very likely that Apple’s announcements at its Spring Forward event last week were intended to set up a scenario in which the Apple TV hardware becomes a gateway device for users new to its product line, as well as something that will greatly increase its appeal to existing owners and established Apple fans alike.

The price cut to $69 combined with the HBO Now access is already probably a powerful enough incentive to spike sales, but an online TV offering that greatly undercuts your typical bundle and offers more premium content at the same time has the potential to really explode Apple TV sales. Rumors about such an offering on Apple’s set-top box have existed since it was first introduced, and all the work Apple has done to make it a compelling independent offering arguably still pales in comparison to what it can accomplish by just throwing in some more traditional live channels.

Apple TV is currently viewed as a supplement, not a replacement, to existing TV service for most users, and that might be its greatest limiting factor. If the company does really launch a streaming TV service this fall, expect TV hardware to be viewed in a new light, by both Apple and consumers alike.