‘I finally cracked it’: An abridged history of Apple’s TV efforts over the years
Apple has been trying to do something big with TV for more than a decade, dating all the way back to when it first previewed the “iTV” streaming box in 2006. Years later, Apple is still trying to break into the TV industry with its biggest push yet: a streaming service expected to be announced at the company’s upcoming “It’s show time” event on March 25th, complete with original Apple-produced TV shows and movies that will be exclusive to the service. But it’s been a long road for Apple to get to this point, one filled with shifting strategies, corporate disagreements, and outright failures in negotiating with both cable companies and content providers. Below is an abridged history outlining how we got here, from rumors to hardware to software. September 12th, 2006: Apple announces the “iTV” set-top box (which would later be renamed as the Apple TV) for in-home syncing and streaming of local iTunes content to a TV, set to launch in 2007, marking the formal start of Apple’s TV ambitions. January 9th, 2007: The original Apple TV set-top launches. Future software updates eventually untether it from iTunes, and give customers the ability to stream and purchase iTunes TV shows and movies directly on the device. August 20th, 2009: Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster makes his first prediction that Apple will create a television set, with a release estimated for 2011. Munster also predicts a new version of an Apple TV with TV input and DVR functions, similar to a TiVo, and a Netflix-like iTunes TV pass that would give access to TV show content on iTunes for a fixed monthly fee, replacing a cable subscription. September 1st, 2010: Apple launches the second generation of the Apple TV. It now includes select third-party apps, including Netflix, allowing customers to stream TV and movie content from non-iTunes sources. Over time, more TV sources are added, including Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, and most major channels and networks. “I finally cracked it.” — Steve Jobs October 2011: In his biography by Walter Isaacson, Apple CEO Steve Jobs discusses his dream of creating an Apple-branded TV that would sync with other Apple devices and iCloud. “It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine. I finally cracked it,” Jobs famously says. October 24th, 2011: Bolstered by Jobs’ comments, Munster once again predicts a true Apple TV: an Apple-branded television set that would combine live TV shows with iCloud content and feature Siri support for searching show titles and actor names. Munster notes that Apple is already prototyping TV sets. November 30th, 2011: Munster repeats his prediction of an Apple TV set, with a launch in time for the 2012 holiday season. He also notes that an Apple TV set would be able to be controlled with an iPhone as well as Siri, and claims that it would feature an App Store, similar to iOS, for downloading new apps and games. According to Munster, customers would still need a cable subscription, because Apple wouldn’t have enough original content otherwise. But all that would be needed was for customers to plug in a coaxial cable, he said, after which Apple’s software would do the rest. March 16th, 2012: Apple releases the third-generation Apple TV. It’s nearly identical to the second-generation model, but with a faster processor and support for 1080p video. May 29th, 2012: At the D10 conference, Tim Cook calls the TV market an “area of intense interest” for Apple. “I don’t think Apple has to own a content business,” he says. “We haven’t had an issue getting content.” August 15th, 2012: The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is in negotiations with various cable companies to provide an Apple TV set-top box with live TV capabilities. “An area of intense interest,” — Tim Cook September 6th, 2012: Bloomberg reports that Apple won’t be releasing a new Apple TV set-top box or a full-fledged television that year due to stalled talks with cable companies. The core issues: cable companies are reluctant to cede control over things like UI presentation and hardware sales. November 20th, 2012: Gene Munster issues a research note predicting an Apple TV set by holiday 2013, with support for Siri and FaceTime. “The biggest item unlikely to come with the TV will be unbundled channels,” says Munster. May 28th, 2013: Tim Cook says that TV is a “great interest” with a “grand vision” for Apple at the D11 conference. May 29th, 2013: Bolstered by Cook’s comments at D11, Munster predicts Apple will launch a TV set by the end of 2014. January 29th, 2014: 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman reports that Apple is testing a new Apple TV set-top box that would let users watch live TV with “an Apple-designed user interface atop their content,” featuring a built-in TV tuner and the ability to control existing cable boxes. February 12th, 2014: Reports from Bloombergand The Wall Street Journal say that Apple is working with Time Warner Cable to release a set-top box later that year that would provide access to live TV. March 23rd, 2014: The Information reports that Apple is working with Comcast (which has now acquired Time Warner Cable) for a set-top box that would “blend live TV listings with apps and web video, with a big focus on gaming.” Apple tries to make its own TV bundle by working with programmers directly February 4th, 2015: Apple reportedly shifts TV strategy, is now in talks directly with TV programmers to provide its own over-the-top TV bundle, similar to Sling TV or PS Vue. March 17th, 2015: The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple and Comcast’s previous talks have broken down, and that Apple is now pursuing its own TV bundle of around 25 channels that the company would offer directly over the internet. ABC, CBS, and Fox are said to be in negotiations, although not Comcast-owned NBC. March 17th, 2015: Bolstered by reports of Apple’s over-the-top service, Gene Munster predicts an Apple TV set as its next major product. May 18th, 2015:The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple has shelved its 4K TV project, citing a lack of unique features that would have allowed Apple to offer a breakout product in the marketplace. May 19th, 2015: Gene Munster publishes a research note titled “Facing The Reality of No Apple Television.” September 9th, 2015: Apple announces the fourth-generation Apple TV, featuring an App Store and integrated Siri for suggestions and search. Notably, Apple doesn’t launch its own live TV service — instead, the company points to Siri and third-party apps as a content aggregation and discovery system. February 12th, 2016: The Hollywood Reporter reports that Apple is creating its first original TV series, a dark drama called Vital Signs starring Dr. Dre (co-founder of the now Apple-owned Beats). The series is reportedly set to premiere on Apple Music. March 24th, 2016: Apple announces a second original TV series, (later named Planet of the Apps) a Shark Tank-style reality show based around pitching app ideas. July 26th, 2016: Apple orders a Carpool Karaoke TV series, also intended for release on Apple Music. The era of Apple-produced TV begins December 12th, 2016: Apple launches a centralized “TV” app for the Apple TV and other devices to aggregate all streaming and purchased content in a single hub, complete with recommendations and integration with live TV streaming apps. But the app is severely limited — Apple can only link out to other apps, not start the streams directly, and support at launch isn’t comprehensive. June 16th, 2017: Apple hires Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg from Sony Pictures Television. The two will serve in “newly created positions overseeing all aspects of video programming” for Apple. June 7th, 2017: Planet of the Apps launches as Apple’s first original TV series. The show is available on Apple Music exclusively for subscribers to the music service. August 8th, 2017: Carpool Karaoke premieres on Apple Music. August 16th, 2017: The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is preparing to invest over $1 billion in both buying and producing original content, with a goal of producing up to ten shows that could premiere on either Apple Music or a new TV streaming service. Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge September 22nd, 2017: Apple launches the Apple TV 4K, an updated version of the fourth-generation Apple TV set with 4K support. From a software perspective, the new box adds no new television features, live or otherwise. October 2017 - June 2018: Apple-produced series are announced, including Amazing Stories, a drama about a network morning show starring Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, a space drama from Ronald D. Moore, an “epic, world-building drama” named See,a series from Damien Chazelle,a thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, a deal with Oprah, and an adaptation of Issac Asimov’s Foundation books, among others. February 15th, 2018: Apple renews Carpool Karaoke for a second season, the first season renewal for an original Apple television series. June 27th, 2018: The Information reports that Apple is considering a streaming bundle that would offer Apple Music, its TV service, and a news service together in a single subscription. March 25th: “It’s show time.” January 8th, 2019: Tim Cook says that Apple will “announce new services this year.” January 29th, 2019: Apple’s video streaming service is rumored to launch in spring 2019. March 13th, 2019: Apple reportedly said to be working to bundle streaming services like HBO and Showtime with its TV service to bolster content alongside its original programming. March 11th, 2019: Apple announces “It’s show time” event for March 25th, where the company is expected to announce details on its new TV streaming service.