Apple may still keep us guessing over whether it will ever make a physical Apple TV set, but it’s clearly strengthening its play for the living room, by becoming the conduit between us and the screen on which we choose to watch video content.
On Tuesday, it emerged that Apple has made a key move into second-screen TV: the company acquired video recommendation site, Matcha.tv, a service which let users aggregate programming guides for different video services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
We reported Matcha abruptly going dark in late-May, but it hinted that it would not be disappearing altogether. Now we know why.
The acquisition was for a rumored sum of between $1 million and $1.5 million, according to a source VentureBeat spoke to, although another source in its report stated that it is likely a higher amount than that.
This move is in line with Apple’s recent efforts to add new content and channels to its Apple TV set top box. In June, it announced that users now purchase over 800,000 TV shows per day, to add to a total of 1 billion to date via iTunes. They’ve also bought 350,000 movies per day, or 380 million to date.
To that end, Apple added two major content sources in the form of HBO Go and WatchESPN to its roster in June, and also partnered Sky News, East Asian-focused Crunchyroll and Qello, to pack some international content to its line-up.
Apple’s also been selling more Apple TV devices, which it first released in 2007. It sold more than 2 million Apple TV boxes over the festive period in 2012, up from 60 percent the year before.
Matcha’s technology brings to Apple TV the kind of smarts that other technology companies have been boasting about recently. Microsoft, for one, has been reorienting its Xbox away from a pure gaming play to include TV offerings like Hulu and Netflix, as it tries to anchor Xbox’s role in the living room.
The company’s upcoming next-gen Xbox One will takes this to the next level, allowing personalized recommendations, as well as content aggregation. A home viewer will be able to say aloud “watch Arrested Development”, for example, and the service will pick and pull up the TV show automatically.
Nintendo’s newest Wii generation, the Wii U, also aims to replace cable boxes and smart TVs. Its free TVii service, launched late 2012, has an on-demand streaming TV service, pulling in content across various providers including DVR, live TV and online providers.
It allows users to search online video sources as well as cable subscriptions for shows they want to watch, similar to what Matcha did. The impressive thing about TVii is its ability to track what you’ve watched, and even pair it with another user at home, allowing TV shows recommend to couples to watch together, for example.
There’s plenty of interesting things happening with video delivery platforms. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, for example, recently unveiled a smart TV OS and set-top box, that will allow people to use their phones to control their TVs and buy video content (and possibly physical items from Alibaba’s other e-commerce sites like Taobao).
Purchased content won’t just be for the living room; users will be able to stream that to their mobile phones so they can watch their TV on the go too, Alibaba said.