Mark Cuban: Apple TV Is a Pipe Dream

And why the HDNet founder thinks that may be a good thing

Mark Cuban has never been shy. Whether he’s opining about Jason Kidd’s decision to bolt from Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks for the New York Knicks (he is very mad) or Google’s business model (he’s called the company a vampire), Cuban doesn’t mince words. With the future of television up in the air, the HDNet founder shared his thoughts with Adweek on whether Apple is set to reinvent TV.

Adweek: Do you think Apple will try to “blow up cable” by taking all of its cash and inking a ton of huge deals with programmers?

I think there is zero chance of that happening. Apple tries to do everything on commission. It’s not big on upfront deals, and I don’t see that changing. Apple has always been about leveraging content to sell hardware and software. In order to get a return on a pay-up-front-for-content deal, they would have to sell a lot of high-margin products that have yet to be introduced.

If Apple just rolls out a nice set-top box with a cool user interface, is that enough to make any waves?

Yes. This would be the smart approach. Having a set-top box that uses a TV-ready version of iOS that changes the paradigm for user interfaces would create a platform from which Apple could sell content and integrate new options. I don’t think there is any doubt that if Apple released a set-top box that supported authentication for multichannel video programming distributors (like cable and satellite companies), it would be a huge success.

If Apple indeed looks to totally disrupt TV, what happens to the so-called over-the-top incumbents like Xbox, Roku, TiVo and Boxee, as well as connected TV manufacturers?

They will have challenges. A key feature will be [the way Apple handles] authentication and programming guides. If Apple succeeds at fully integrating its products with cable and satellite companies to facilitate both authentication and programming guides, it’s game over.

Could you make the argument that Xbox is better positioned to chip away at the TV model than Apple is?

Right now, yes. Xbox has done a great job of integrating TV into its consoles. It works and works well. The challenge will be whether or not they look to make it a price-competitive set-top box that can be ubiquitous or stick with their current gaming-driven market. It wouldn’t shock me if Microsoft is waiting to see what Apple does and will try to do a better job of it.

Why has everybody struggled to break up the TV cartel? Google, Microsoft and Apple have all encountered major challenges.

It’s expensive. TV is a cash-commitment business. Billions in cash up front per year is a huge commitment.

You’ve invested in a connected TV app company called MOVL Kontrol. Why?

Because right now smart TV requires you to go to their Internet store to get access to their apps. MOVL Kontrol’s system enables “always on” functionality for smart TVs. You turn on the TV and it just works, right on top of live TV. My kids’ favorite—and mine too—is Splat, which lets you fling your choice of tomato, egg and many other options at the screen from your mobile device. If you and your friends want to fling tomatoes at me while watching Shark Tank, you just fling it, and you rack up points if it hits me in the kisser.