Senate Bill Requiring 'A la Carte' Cable Offerings Could Play into Apple's Hand

While rumors of leaked iPhone parts circulate this week, in my mind the biggest news is the Senate bill John McCain has been working on. It would require cable companies let consumers select just those cable channels they want to watch, rather than being forced to pay for a bundle of channels that includes many they aren't interested in. This is just what Apple has been wanting to do, according to many rumors, and just the sort of deal they've been trying to negotiate with content providers. Should this bill pass, I think Apple would inevitably offer both an HDTV and TV subscriber service.

According to AppleInsider, which cites a news report in The Hill, McCain will be introducing the legislation in the coming days. It's hard to say what the chances are that the bill would pass. It will likely face serious opposition from the cable industry, and a previous bill didn't get very far. But things are different now. The industry is ripe for disruption. Already, consumers are "cutting the cord" and are instead subscribing to services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. This, along with services such as Aereo, which has figured out a way to offer local channels to people unable to receive an over-the-air signal, is putting a lot of pressure on the industry already.

And then there's Apple. I'd like to think Apple is right in there lobbying for the change. I would really like to see Apple be successful in its efforts to offer TV service. Rumors have said that while it has prototype HDTVs ready to go, it's reluctant to come out with this new technology absent the ability to offer a subscriber service along with it. Steve Jobs biography by the Walter Isaacson famously quoted Jobs saying he finally figured out an interface for TV that would solve all the problems of today's cumbersome systems. It would likely be app-based: one app per channel. And the system would seamlessly integrate broadcast TV with streaming Internet video.

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The bill also has a number of other provisions favorable to consumers, such as doing away with the blackout rule that prohibits cable companies from carrying a sports event that is being blacked out locally. 

I hope this bill passes.

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Jim Karpen holds a Ph.D. in literature and writing, and has a love of gizmos. His doctoral dissertation focused on the revolutionary consequences of digital technologies and anticipated some of the developments taking place in the industry today. Jim has been writing about the Internet and technology since 1994 and has been using Apple's visionary products for decades.