Can Apple bully its way to a streaming TV service?

Apple may have ultimately earned the upper hand over the music industry with the iTunes store, but its similar bare-knuckled negotiating tactics don’t seem to be working as well with the TV industry, according to a recent report in the NY Post.

At issue is a streaming TV service that Apple is supposedly trying to develop, presumably to work with a rumored Apple television set (though it could also be a possibility for its Apple TV boxes and even the iPad). While an Apple television would be highly anticipated and probably very popular, it’s hardly the same landscape that music labels faced when the iTunes Store was first presented to them. Then, free downloading was rampant and the iPod was quickly establishing itself as the MP3 player. In other words, Apple had huge leverage and used it to the hilt.

Though the video landscape is in a state of flux, with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu battling traditional cable and satellite companies for the viewing minutes of consumers, broadcasters aren’t in the same state of utter panic over their immediate future. Not surprisingly, then, media execs aren’t exactly caving in to Apple’s offers, which one describes as “They want everything for nothing.”

Apple apparently is also trying to get pay TV providers to abandon their set-top boxes and work with Apple’s UI and devices instead. As with broadcasters, cable companies — shockingly — aren’t that interested.

You can’t fault Apple for trying to upend the industry in the way it’s done before, but you do have to wonder if this is an example of the late Steve Jobs’ “reality distortion field” in action. It’s hard to negotiate that “we decide the price, we decide what content” — as one source told the Post — when there’s already a huge existing base of TV owners, legacy set-top boxes, established streaming services, and mobile apps from TV providers and networks alike.

It’s clear that offer streaming TV apps with the roll out of an “iTV” is part of the Apple strategy to appeal to cord cutters as well as fanboys. But as long as networks perceive that their content is more valuable to Apple than Apple’s devices are to them, those apps may be limited in number.

Do you think Apple will eventually be able to persuade broadcasters to offer their programming for a streaming TV service? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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