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Is Apple Poised To Disrupt The Pay-TV Industry By Buying HBO?

Photo of Tim Mulligan
by Tim Mulligan

As opportunities go, it doesn’t get much bigger than this: the opportunity to buy the most lucrative content creator in video. Rumours are running around that (click here to see the Market Watch Article) that Apple is running the rule over HBO in the event of a dispersal sale by its parent company Timer Warner Inc. Time Warner’s CEO Jeff Bewkes is under pressure from activist shareholders to realize latent value in the company by spinning off its highly successful HBO division. HBO enjoys strong brand recognition and leverage for its string of hit dramas dating from the Sopranos all the way up to the millennial hit Game Of Thrones. It has also recently launched the best in class premium SVOD (video subscription service) HBO Now which is a stand alone service offering the network’s hit shows to customers without an existing Pay-TV subscription.

Apple TV Needs The Creative Edge

With Apple currently exploring ways to ramp up its Apple TV service the acquisition of HBO would represent a real coup and arguably give it the original creative quality edge over SVOD competitors such as Netflix and Amazon that it has been lacking to date. The fact that HBO is considered in the same aspirational premium class as a brand as Apple (and able to utilize premium pricing as a result) makes it a highly desirable fit for Apple TV.

By purchasing HBO Apple would effectively be replicating its Beats acquisition back in 2014; acquiring an industry leader both for its technological edge, aspirational brand and its creative talent. The company would be allowed to create the best in class video service alongside the existing Apple TV team, before a huge re-launch to the 800 million plus iTunes accounts.

Of all the tech companies only Amazon with its Prime service and significant user base would be able to mount any kind of challenge to the sudden dominance of Apple TV in the global living room. As Apple well knows, the TV set remains the central piece of entertainment hardware in the home. So the ability to dominate this space on a global level is unparalleled.

All Bets Are Off In SVOD If This Deal Goes Through

If this rumour turns into a reality then Apple will be poised to disrupt video streaming in the same way that Apple Music has caused such disruption to the likes of Spotify and Deezer in the music streaming sector. This will have huge competitive implications for the existing SVOD companies, primarily Netflix which is busy building itself as a global brand to go head-to-head with Pay-TV. Netflix could find itself being the victim of disruption, with the Pay-TV industry following rapidly behind.

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