Yesterday wasn’t a great day for news about Apple’s new Apple TV digital media player. The first sting came from an interview that ESPN president John Skipper did with the Wall Street Journal, in which he revealed that Apple has been "frustrated" with its inability to form programming deals with major content providers. When asked if Apple has a path to being a player in the TV industry, Skipper replied:
"They are creating a significantly advantageous operating system and a great television experience and that television experience is fabulous for sports. We are big proponents of believing it would be a fabulous place to sell some subscriptions. We have ongoing conversations. They have been frustrated by their ability to construct something which works for them with programmers. We continue to try to work with them."
Indeed rumors have been rife for years that Apple wants to launch a new TV streaming service that upends the current cable distribution method. There were strong rumors that such a service was going to launch with the unveiling of the new Apple TV last fall, but the service reportedly fell through because Apple was unable to convince content providers to embrace a new distribution method. Then just last month, Bloomberg reported that Apple had suspended its plans for launching a TV service entirely and will instead focus on "being a platform for media companies to sell directly to customers through its App Store."
The second sting came yesterday when Re/code broke the news that key Apple TV designer Ben Keighran has left the company. Re/code reported that Keighran had "spent the last three years overseeing the look and feel of the software on the new Apple TV." Keighran came to Apple after selling them his app search and discovery company, Chomp, in 2012.
His departure doesn’t appear to be linked with Skipper’s comments over the frustration of its lack of content deals. Keighran told Re/code that he’s left Apple because he wanted "to create not just a killer product, but my own iconic company." He did also note that his decision to leave Apple was "really difficult. I’ve totally fallen in love with the people, the culture, the product."
On the brighter side of things, more and more new Apple TV apps appear on the tvOS App Store each day and early reports suggest the new Apple TV has taken the lead in the digital media player market. We’ll probably know for sure how it’s doing when Apple holds its quarterly financial conference call next week where it announces sales numbers and drops hints about its product lines.