Apple TV scored a major content win today, with the addition of HBO Go and WatchESPN to its subscriber package. Apple also announced partnerships with Sky News, the anime site Crunchyroll and the concert channel Qello.
Apple's small streaming service—which the company refers to as a "hobby"—has previously offered just a few dozen content sources through direct apps. Users who wanted to watch HBO, for example, would have to stream from iOS devices via Apple Airplay. The content additions, along with Apple TV's low-end price, should make it competitive with similar set-top boxes such as Roku, which has long offered an array of content.
Content from HBO Go and WatchESPN is only available to certain cable subscribers. The Washington Post reported that while certain ESPN videos on demand will be available to all Apple TV users, live access requires a cable subscription with an affiliated provider. DirecTV and Charter subscribers will not be able to use the HBO Go app.
"The cable bundle is relatively well protected," analyst Jaison Blair told Bloomberg. "The programmers are killing the golden goose."
Cable companies lament what has become the new paradigm of selling content directly to consumers, a business model that has made Apple grow into a media retail behemoth since the iTunes store opened in 2003. On Thursday, Apple announced that iTunes TV episode sales have passed the one billion mark. ITunes users download 350,000 movies and 800,000 TV episode purchases every day, the company said. Factoring in an average price of 99 cents per episode and $20 per movie, a Financial Times blog estimated that Apple rakes in $3-4 million per day from TV and movies.