Apple TV launch draws subdued response from TV industry at IBC show

AMSTERDAM -- Just a week after Apple's Tim Cook boasted that the company's new Apple TV creates a "new foundation for TV" with an app-based approach to the market, the TV industry at the IBC show offered a notably tepid response to Apple's new device. TV executives at the show generally acknowledged that the device appears to offer a smooth user interface and useful features, but none viewed the device as a breakthrough on the same level as the iPhone or iPad.

"There is no doubt you have to change the interface between the user and the TV set," said Fernando Bittencourt, VP of SET, who has extensive knowledge of the Brazilian TV market. He explained that the TV industry continues to work to improve the user experience, but that more work needs to be done.

Indeed, a number of executives pointed out that many of the Apple TV's main sales features are already available from a number of other providers. For example, executives pointed out that conversational, voice-powered searches are already available through Comcast's X1 and Dish Network's platform. And the universal search feature in the Apple TV -- which aggregates search results from services including iTunes, Netflix and Hulu -- is currently available through the likes of TiVo and Gracenote.

However, industry executives agree that the interest generated by the release of the Apple TV would put more emphasis on useful and easy-to-use TV interfaces.

Charles Dawes, senior director of marketing for TV metadata provider Rovi, said that Apple TV may help bring "conversational search" to the mainstream more quickly. "I think what Apple does just elevates it to another level in the public consciousness."

Interestingly, the Apple TV also raises the question among executives: Is this another platform they need to support?

"We'll evaluate what their business terms are," said Sling TV CEO Roger Lynch, explaining that the company is considering making an Apple TV app.

Jeff Klugman, EVP and general manager of products and revenues for TiVo, said "I don't know" when questioned whether the company would build a TiVo app for the Apple TV. Klugman also pointed out that TiVo offers a number of the same features as Apple TV, including universal search. But he noted that Apple TV has "not yet integrated the linear television experience" as TiVo has.

Those comments are noteworthy considering reports that Apple had been in discussions with the likes of NBC, ABC and CBS to offer a package of TV services on its TV device. However, it appears those negotiations were not successful in time for Apple's launch. More recent reports have indicated that Apple might launch a streaming video service until sometime next year.

And will TV broadcasters support Apple TV? "If the market is big enough, then they would support it," said Simon Fell, director of technology and innovation for the European Broadcasting Union. "If it's got a big enough market, people will support it."

In general, TV executives said that the Apple TV would help generate interest in their industry, which would likely help most players.

"Bringing simplicity is what the consumers are asking for," said Marco Pellegrinato, director of research and development for Mediaset Group. "Our challenge is to keep up."

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Article updated Sept. 18 to correct information about TiVo.

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