Apple Announces Television Services Partnership with Third Parties

January 31, 2019 •

Apple TV 4K

CES is the largest convention in its category and held annually by the Consumer Technology Association in Las Vegas every January. You can find participants from the largest providers such as Sony, BMW, and Belkin to small manufacturing operations with a small card table sized booth. We too enjoy showcasing at CES each year. But there is always one major brand absent, Apple. This year was an exception and they had a secret to share.

Apple’s CES Secret

Historically, Apple has never had anything to do with CES. Perhaps with a little bit of arrogance, the company simply does not bother showcasing at the event. Whether the show lacks a brand connection for them or it just is not worth the time, Apple leaves CES to all of the other major tech brands.

This year, Apple even laughingly took out billboard space in Las Vegas touting the company’s stance of user privacy for the iPhone.

Source: Chris Velazco via Twitter

The big difference for 2019? Apple was at CES, just not at CES. In a secret meeting held with a limited number of attendees, Apple announced they are opening the iTunes library, including movies and TV shows to third party hardware.

This type of collaboration is unprecedented, unless you consider Steve Jobs concession to allow iTunes on Windows platforms as a way to sell more iPods.

iTunes Comes to Samsung Devices

Samsung has garnered exclusive rights to be the first manufacturer with the ability to ship iTunes Movies and TV shows on their smart TVs, including 4K HDR movies. Samsung TVs from 2018 will even receive retroactive access via a firmware update in more than 100 countries. All upcoming 2019 Samsung Smart TVs are alleged to ship with an iTunes app onboard, giving immediate access to user libraries, for anyone that has previous purchased content from the expansive Apple library.

Additionally, Samsung Smart TVs will receive Apple’s proprietary wireless audio/video streaming capability via AirPlay 2.

Streaming from iOS to third party TVs

AirPlay 2, launched late 2018, is a wireless audio and video standard that lets Apple ecosystem hardware send content to other devices. Until this announcement, AirPlay 2 was extremely limited to the Apple ecosystem and some select third party providers like Sonos smart speakers.

The big deal: Apple has never allowed video streaming from one of their devices to a third party. Video streaming always required an Apple TV as the medium device. With Samsung TVs receiving iTunes library access and AirPlay video streaming, it effectively kills the need for users to purchase an Apple TV for anything other than gaming apps.

All told, Apple announced AirPlay 2 capability on 19 different series of televisions spanning, Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio, as far back as 2017 on some devices.

Future Implications for Apple TV

It leaves the industry guessing about the reasoning behind the sudden shift in business theory by Apple. For several years, Apple has been rumored to be releasing some form of TV-killer. Once, the rumors guessed it would be a fully functioning stand alone television set with a proprietary operating system that would replace or index cable television. Eventually the Apple TV set-top-box was released and expectations of a full television dropped.

More recently, Apple has been buying content and releasing its own small original programming efforts via iTunes. Rumors have swirled that upwards of $5B is being spent by the Cupertino based giant, in a play for original content. The intention is to increase services revenue, a number which it first released on its January 29, 2019 earnings call, by offering some form of Netflix-style subscription service.

With Samsung TVs now including out-of-the-box access to iTunes an untold millions (or more?) of new potential customers are just waiting to give Apple more money.