Is Apple Working on Ad-Free TV?

by Dan Lyons

Date

July 16, 2013 at 2:00 PM

apple-tvApple is working on a TV service that would let people pay a little extra and be able to skip ads, according to a new report from Jessica Lessin, a former Wall Street Journal reporter.

Details are sketchy, but the deal seems to be that Apple would collect premium fees from ad-skippers and then use that money to “compensate television networks for the lost revenue,” Lessin reports.

Is this is a good thing? Depends who you ask. Viewers will love it, and a lot would probably pay extra for it. Networks might be okay too, as long as the deal was structured in a way that they collected the same amount of money that they used to get from ads.

But it would be bad news for the ad industry -- all those thousands of people who create ads, sell ads, buy media, sell media, and so on.

This report must scare the daylights out of them. Especially because Apple tends to be a trendsetter. So if Apple can pull this off, others will follow suit.

Change Is Inevitable

Then again, is there anyone out there who thinks the ad business has a bright, sunny future? The various shortcomings of the advertising industry have been well documented by the likes of our pal Jeff Rosenblum, who runs Questus, a digital agency, and created the documentary The Naked Brand.

Advertising may not ever go away, but the business is in serious decline, which is why the media business is hurting so badly. People don’t like ads. They’re already skipping them whenever possible, either by watching TV with their DVR or buying shows a la carte on Netflix.

Moreover, everyone who works in this industry knows this. Every writer, every producer, every network executive, every advertising executive -- every one of those people is also a consumer of TV, themselves. They’re doing just what the rest of us are doing. Using DVRs and streaming services to skip ads.

Brave New World

It will take a huge amount of work to wean the TV industry off the advertising model. But I think it will happen. How can it not? How long can an entire industry carry on using a business model that virtually every single one of its customers hates?

Apple’s late co-founder, Steve Jobs, told his biographer that for years he had been trying to figure out a new user interface for TV and that he’d “finally cracked it.”

Nobody knows what he meant by that. But maybe he wasn’t simply talking about a new user interface. Maybe he wasn't talking about Apple TV, which he modestly referred to as a "hobby." Maybe he was talking about a new business model. And maybe the people who have taken the helm at Apple in the post-Jobs era can pull it off.

Fingers crossed.

What methods do you use to block out unwanted advertisements? Do you think Apple has a shot at reinventing TV?

Image credit: mando2003us

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