SPECULATION: What If the AppleTV became a DVR to spite NBC?

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This IS NOT speculation on what we’ll see on Sept. 5th. This weekend I was thinking about the NBC vs. Apple thing, after explaining it to relatives, and a thought occurred to me…

There has been long standing rumor and speculation that Apple would turn the AppleTV into a DVR. At the time, that never made sense to me…it would do nothing but infuriate the networks that Apple is hoping to keep appeased.

However, with Universal’s continued antagonism towards Apple and vice versa, it’s not going to be long before SOMEONE has to give. Steve Jobs has never been very good at that.

If NBC does jump ship, I think it’s safe to say that sales of other shows will be affected as well, because once people get used to going to Bittorrent (and I do firmly believe that people will be driven to Bittorrent before they are driven to hulu.com or any other asinine service NBC can dream up), they’re going to keep using it. I don’t think everyone will abandon iTunes by any means, but I think Apple can expect a huge sales loss in the video department of the iTunes store without NBC.

If that happens, the other networks are likely to get upset. If they do…what solution does Apple have to keep content on their iPods? Well…they could always go the DVR route…last time I checked DVRs weren’t illegal, and Dish Network and (I believe) others have set ups where you can download that content to other devices…so why couldn’t Apple do this?

Now, I don’t know the ins and outs of the DMCA, so this may very well be a moot point – and if it is, somebody please point me to the parts of the DMCA that says they can’t do this…but if you can record onto a tape with a VCR, I don’t see why Apple couldn’t just record the programming off your local cable (including a cable card in a new AppleTV model for those digital channels), and encode it in an iPod friendly format that could shoot itself right back to iTunes an onto your iPod?

It seems like that would be a perfect way to keep the content coming for the iPods, and it’s not like the networks didn’t get a chance to play nice…if they ultimately choose not too (and of course, I ‘m not saying all of them will act like NBC, but you never know)…wouldn’t this be a perfect solution?

I mean, $300 for an Apple TV is cheaper than buying 3 seasons worth of any NBC show at the $4.99 they wanted to charge per episode this fall…right?

While this is, again, NOT speculation about what we’ll see at the Apple Special Event on Sept. 5th, you can join us for live blogging of the event by bookmarking our Live Area. Or feel free to subscribe to our RSS Feed.

Comments

  1. You can currently do this with a Tivo so I can’t imagine it would be illegal for Apple to do it. (With Tivo you have to buy thier desktop program to convert things but it pops them right into Apple TV friendly format.)

  2. I highly doubt this will ever happen. I mean Apple makes money off the shows they sell off iTunes (more than they make off music I would hope) Making the AppleTV into a DVR would cripple iTunes video sales majorly. Besides Job’s always says “people like to own their music/videos” so I think its safe to say Apple won’t ever make a DVR. However I can see them expanding the iTunes Store into the living room and allowing you to buy movies/shows and eventually a renting service to compete with all the “On Demand” stuff you get with cable boxes.

  3. Would be pretty cool if we would see something like this from Apple in the future.

    All the other DVRs available just suck. And I’m sure Apple would do a much better job regarding usability.

  4. What’s kinda ironic is right before the original iPod was released there was high speculation that Apple was about to release a DVR. (The invite read “Come see apple’s newest innovation. Hint: it’s not a computer.”)

    To respond to Steve (above), when Apple said people want to own their music I believe they’re referring to people not wanting to “rent” their music.

    The whole idea behind a DVR is being to time-shift (or in the case of the iPod, space-shift) content that I already get for free. The US Congress has already declared that it is legal under copyright’s “fair-use” right (see the Betamax trials of the 70s or 80s).

    Will it happen? I’m not sure. While I don’t believe Apple makes a bundle on videos it sells, I also don’t believe Apple wants to start a war with the content providers.

    Just my $0.02.

  5. How about DVR functionality for AppleTV that *just* records the networks who won’t offer their most popular content on iTunes? Take THAT, dumbasses at NBC!!!

  6. In the Q&A session during the post iPhone kickoff someone asked Steve something about the AppleTV and he said something about there being AppleTV news in the not-to-distant future or some such statement (I don’t remember his exact words). This would seem to be a good time for some AppleTV news as well as iPod news. I don’t buy the DVR stuff, Apple likes to remain in control of the content. Maybe movie rentals or additional content provided (a la YouTube). Maybe more control of iTunes content (purchasing/renting) directly from AppleTV?

    TBM

  7. Michael, I run two Apple-TV-related sites: http://appletvhacks.net and http://appletvsource.com. I have to admit that the enthusiasm over the Apple TV has died down quite a bit. It would be great if Apple can bring DVR feature to the Apple TV. However, it is currently not possible with the current version of the device since it has absolutely no inputs. Of course, Apple can always come up with a USB extension for this but I doubt if this is in the works.

    There are many devices out there that attempt to bridge the computer to the living room. I think Apple TV has a BIG potential. The possibilities are endless. The only factor slowing it down (more like stopping it in its tracks) is Apple.

  8. @SpinPapi (5): That’s exactly what came to my mind when reading Michael’s speculation. I think this would be a great way to put pressure on all networks not selling through the iTunes store. Good for Apple, good for us!

    @Luck (7): Why not get some TV tuner manufacturer ie. Elgato, Miglia, whoever on board and allow them to connect their tuners to the USB port and integrate their software into the Apple TV interface?

  9. Henlin, yes, it would be great to have tuner manufacturers work with Apple on opening up the USB port. A few months back, Apple was in talks with one of the manufacturers. I don’t know what happened to that.

    By the way, there is a hack for getting eyeTV to work on the Apple TV. Check out http://wiki.awkwardtv.org for this.

  10. I’d love to see Apple enter the DVR market — I can just imagine the clean UI design and simple remote. TiVo is great, but a little real competition wouldn’t hurt.

  11. Andrew Finneran says:

    I honestly dont understand apple or the itv. I admit to having a vendetta against them due to the ipod mini which was a completely defective product they still made profit on, myself included. however, there is a device available at radioshack for like 60 bucks to put an entire desktop onto a television. Why would i buy the itv for 300 to put only my itunes onto my television. Not to mention the fact apple tries to restrict what is available on itunes because they want to profit by selling their music and movies.

  12. I could see this happening it most likely will not happen and i do not have cable and do not plan on getting it so i do not care if it happens.

    Some people posting say it would never happen because apple makes money form sales of tv shows and movies yes they do make a little money but the goal is to sell apple tv’s ipods and iphones not to sell movies and tv shows. is and always has been a hardware company they want to sell hardware. i think that making the itv a DVR and works with itunes would be a great idea.

  13. Here’s the wrinkle… when you get the shows via cable, that ain’t free! The whole point of switching to an appleTV or something like it is to shake free of that filthy monthly dollarsuck. I would MUCH rather purchase ala cart than suffer the angst of the demonic monthly bill.. eesh.

  14. I read a interesting article a long time ago, This guy set up a PVR and a web interface to allow him to play stuff his PVR recorded.

    Eventually a friend wanted to tap in, so he added another tuner card, and ran cable to his neighbors house.

    After a few years of this he has a PVR that records every channel 24/7 . The trick was to remain legal, so what he did was set himself up as a cable operator. Your fees are based on your viewer ship so he paid dirt small because his viewer base was so small. As the Big Media allow Cable operators to time shift there shows for local broad cast.

    What apple needs to do is the same thing, make a massive PVR that feeds iTunes, and then treat it like Pay per view. Sell all shows from all markets to all customers. then pay like a cable operator based on number of viewers per channel.

    I am not a lawyer but the principles seems the same.

  15. For some strange reason Apple seems to think adding a DVR to the TV would cannibalize their iTunes video sales. I think opposite. I would buy one in a flash if it had a tuner and the ability to play other file formats … but that might offend the third parties (Elgato & Miglia) who already have some very good products. The only reason I don’t buy one now is because it doesn’t do the things I want, beyond sending recorded video through iTunes to my TV. They do seem to be going in the right direction, but much too slowly considering the gambles they take elsewhere.

  16. Kevin Lipman says:

    Steve would never go for it. it’s so un-apple. he dosen’t want crap looking video and commercials on your iPod. he wants complete controll of the resolution…file size…and seemless video that the iTunes Video Store currently offers

  17. Adrienne Gilbreath says:

    If they would add a DVR and merge the Apple TV with the Mac Mini, I would be the happiest person on the planet. We’re finally buying an HDTV this Christmas, and it would be great if I could use it as my computer/ media center as well.

  18. I think your impressions of the number of iTunes customers that would jump to bittorrent are somewhat skewed. It does comprise a large percent of Internet traffic, but that doesn’t mean everyone has the time or know-how to use it.

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