Say what? In a group interview last week, Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt made the following statement about Apple’s AirPlay and Apple TV:
“I’m not sure I know what AirPlay is. Today we want to be on every screen. Today it’s a little bit clunky to get programming from the Internet onto the TV — not so hard to get it on your iPad. What’s hard is the plumbing, what wires do you connect, what device do you use. So the current Apple TV, the little thing, the hockey puck, really doesn’t do anything to help enable you to get Internet material on your TV.”
Despite proclaiming himself as an enthusiastic Apple customer, Mr. Britt obviously has no clue what AirPlay is. While we shouldn’t expect everyone to know about everything their iPhones and iPads can do, the head of a large cable company should probably know about a product that’s directly aimed at the products and services your company offers.
Apple touts AirPlay as a simple way to take Internet video on your iPhone or iPad and transmit that wirelessly to your Apple TV box connected to your TV. Since AirPlay simply takes whatever you have on your iPad or iPhone and transmits it to the big screen, it doesn’t exactly care where you got that video from, opening the door to tons of legal and illegal content that’s made its way online. Obviously, Apple customers can “get Internet material on your TV” through Apple’s “little thing, the hockey puck.”
Though much of the content available on the web today is of the illegal nature, AirPlay opens the door for networks to reach consumers directly by offering mobile applications that iOS (and Android) users can download to view programming, circumventing the cable companies altogether. While there is no indication that companies are doing that today (after all, HBO GO requires a cable subscription), the door is open for these companies to come plowing through should more and more customers shed cable in favor of web-based services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video.
The fact that the wealth of content available online can be made available on your TV with a one-time $99 set-top box purchase should be worrying to cable company executives such as Mr. Britt, and that he isn’t aware such a service exists shows how out of touch some cable companies are with their competition. This is ultimately good for consumers in the end, as cable companies are only getting more costly as time goes on, and is often the first service cut once a household encounters rough times.
Cable companies are going to have to start paying attention to Apple TV with AirPlay, as well as other online-focused services if they’re going to thrive in the internet age.