Just like the saying goes, "A new Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) TV comes to those who wait."
Investors were expecting the Mac maker to unveil a new Apple TV at WWDC in June, but the developer conference came and went with no mention of a new streaming set-top box. Buzzfeed's John Paczkowski (of AllThingsD fame) reported the storyline in March, but The New York Times shot down the idea just days before the event in what was likely a controlled leak, saying the device wasn't ready quite yet. All consumers got was a price cut on the current-generation product from $99 to $69.
Buzzfeed followed up with a report last month, providing some additional insight into what Apple might have up its sleeve. The new model is expected to get a slimmer redesign and updated internals, including the same A8 chip that powers the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. A new remote is also supposedly in store, featuring touch input, and Apple might finally bring Siri to Apple TV for voice control, as I imagined years ago.
Perhaps most importantly, Apple may at long last bring the App Store to Apple TV and open up the platform to third-party developers. Consumers and developers have been asking for this for years, and the company may be ready to deliver. There's another possible addition that could be in the works that has the potential to be a killer feature -- eventually.
In an interview with Wired, Apple's Jimmy Iovine teased the idea of bringing human curation to TV content. Human curation, of course, is one of Apple Music's big differentiators and part of its value proposition. In a separate recent interview, Iovine mentioned that Apple has hired "hundreds" of human curators since algorithms can only do so much, often failing to "understand the subtlety and the mixing of genres."
Here's what he volunteered to Wired of his own volition:
We all know one thing, we all have different television delivery systems, don't we all wish that the delivery systems were better, as far as curation and service? They're all technically good. And Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) is starting to cross the code because they're starting to make some original content. It is really good, but still I mean none of us make movies here right, so we're all punters, or what do you call them in the music business, fans right?
We want to watch movies. Sit down with your girlfriend or a bunch of friends and try to find a movie online. That box helps you none -- it doesn't help. You're on your own. And eventually that will catch them unless somebody digs in and really helps the customer. And entertainment needs that, it needs to live and breathe.
One of Netflix's most popular features is its ability to suggest content based on what the streaming service knows about you, which comes in the form of your viewing history, reviews, likes, and dislikes. The company has always been very data-driven with its approach to content, but that doesn't mean that it relies exclusively on its recommendation algorithms. Chief content officer Ted Sarandos has said:
It is important to know which data to ignore. In practice, its probably a seventy-thirty mix. Seventy is the data, and thirty is judgment. But the thirty needs to be on top, if that makes sense.
While this suggests that Netflix's curation has a human element, the current theory is that Sarandos is that human element. It's not clear whether or not Netflix has hired a team of human curators, and if so how big that team might be. Besides, the company has been investing so heavily in original content that investing in a team of human curators may not be its top priority, especially as it continues its expensive international expansion.
Never say never
Iovine's comments suggest that Apple could embark upon the path of human curation for video content. However, video content curation is completely different from audio content curation, and far more complex. And even if Apple does end up launching its rumored streaming TV service, it likely wouldn't find itself in direct competition with Netflix. In fact, it's even possible that the two companies could collaborate on improving curation. After all, Netflix was one of the original partners with Apple TV and one of the first services to integrate with the product.
To be clear, any type of curation plans that Apple may have in mind are likely far off. TV has always been a tough nut to crack, and Apple is focusing heavily on Apple Music right now, which is also expected to be included on the new Apple TV. Building or acqui-hiring a team of video content curators probably isn't on the near-term agenda, but it could be some day.