BTIG’s Rich Greenfield is one of the few media analysts who also seems to use and critique just about every video gadget that’s ever been made. So people who are betting that Apple is about to make huge profits from a TV set that will revolutionize consumers’ relationship with the tube should pay attention to his warning this morning: It “will take longer to come to fruition than investors are likely expecting.” His view jibes with that of his BTIG colleague, Walt Piecyk, who on Monday downgraded Apple to “neutral,” in part because of his conclusion that “no Apple TV will be released this year.” The belief that Apple is about to upend the TV market, just as it has done with music and phones, spread last year. Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson quoted the late CEO saying that he finally “cracked” a way to make the viewing process simple and elegant. Greenfield agrees that there’s an opportunity for someone to do just that. The user interfaces and remote controls from TV manufacturers and pay TV companies “are horrible – they are the polar opposite of intuitive and they certainly don’t ‘just work’,” the analyst says.
But the media ecosystem is “quite complex and requires a lot of agreements between parties that are still trying to figure out if they are friends or enemies or somewhere in between.” His advice to Apple: Start off by developing a device for satellite companies DirecTV and Dish Network that would redesign the look and feel of the viewing experience. That would “provide national reach” and pressure cable companies to play ball. “Once a consumer upgrades their living room TV, they are going to want to replicate that experience on other TVs throughout their home” — opening the way for Apple to sell its own TV set — Greenfield says. He even envisions a way for Apple to offer a rival pay TV service via the Internet. “If Apple is willing to take all the content (meaning no cherry picking the best channels) from each content owner at a premium price (figure $40+ per sub/month compared to Comcast’s rate of around $30/sub/month), we believe a significant number of programmers would agree to license programming” to Apple, he says.
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