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DirecTV CEO Not Worried About Probable Apple TV — Yet

4 Jun, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Don’t count Mike White, CEO of No. 1 satellite TV operator DirecTV, among the growing bandwagon of industry observers whipped into hyperbole regarding a possible standalone Apple TV launching soon with a separate operating system.

Speaking June 1 at the Sanford Bernstein & Co. media event in New York, White said he has no doubt Apple will bow a TV in the near future. But like Google TV, White wonders how such a device would differentiate itself from competitors without revolutionary content rights.

“I happen to have Apple TV on Cape Cod and don’t use it that much,” White said, referring to the current media player. “But that’s the old version. I don't see media companies saying, 'You can stream things in bundles over the Internet.’”

Apple, with its outsized success with the iPhone and iPad, has many observers believing it could successfully circumvent traditional cable and satellite TV multichannel operators by offering transactional and streaming access to movies and TV shows over the Internet.

Apple CEO Tim Cook last week at an industry confab hinted the computer company was “intensely interested” in television — a long-tail strategy he admitted ran counter to the company’s mantra of total-control-or-exit when entering a new industry.

White said that he couldn’t imagine Apple being able to “smash” the cost structure and rights fees currently afforded cable and satellite industries. He added that streaming four hours of TV over the Internet would result in a $120 monthly bill, not counting content.

“It’s hard for me to see relative to our satellite technology [Apple TV] obsoleting our position,” White said.

The CEO said that as a core competency, satellite TV is able to deliver robust high-definition, linear programming. Having 30,000 movies available on demand, however, requires a cloud-based platform DirecTV plans to roll out later this year.

“That’s our strategy to have a hybrid [platform] going forward,” White said. “I’m sure Apple will [have] some sort of Apple TV, but there are all sorts of smart TVs out there with apps. I’m just not convinced their user interface will be that much better than [ours]. I think [success] will have more to do with content rights than technology.”

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