The time is ripe (and getting riper) for Apple's television streaming service

Although Apple's rumored television streaming service — which I call Apple Web TV — has purportedly been delayed until next year, the sooner it arrives the better. The number of subscribers to cable and satellite TV providers continues to dwindle.

The Wall Street Times says that Apple is in talks with programmers to offer a slimmed-down bundle of TV networks that will be available on Apple gadgets such as the Apple TV, iPad, and iPhone. The service will reportedly have about 25 channels and cost between US$30 and $40 per month.

The sooner it arrives, the better. The top 20 tracked operators in the US (accounting for more than 95% of the total market) saw subscriber losses of 479,000 while the operators in Canada lost 53,000 customers, according to new data from Strategy Analytics. Digital platforms were not immune from the decline, as digital TV subscriptions in the US fell by 62,000, says the research group. In Canada, digital TV subscriptions declined for the second straight quarter, falling by 9,000.

"Subscriber losses in the second quarter were across all of the Pay TV platforms, including cable, satellite, and IPTV.  However, going forward, we believe there are clear opportunities for the Pay TV providers as they begin to roll out over-the-top (OTT) video services similar to Dish Network’s Sling TV offering," says Jason Blackwell, director of the Service Provider Strategies service (SPS) at Strategy Analytics. "Verizon will debut its OTT [over-the-top] service this year, along with Comcast and CenturyLink.  Although nothing has been announced, AT&T (with its DirecTV acquisition) is predicted to roll out an OTT video service, and the company is uniquely positioned to tie that into a variety of nationwide bundles that could also include fixed or mobile broadband, satellite TV, and wireless phone service."

Apple’s Web TV offering will reportedly be anchored by broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and Fox, but won’t include smaller channels typically included in a standard cable TV package. If the WSJ is right, Apple’s new service may have one channel that may have folks who’ve been hesitant to cancel their cable or satellite service doing just that. The station: ESPN. Disney and Viacom are also reported to be in discussions for inclusion in the Apple Web TV service.

When (and it will arrive) Apple Web TV debuts, it could have major advantages in keeping folks in the Apple ecosystem and luring new users to it. Americans are eschewing cable and satellite service in favor of a variety of OTT video options according to a new survey that shows nearly half of consumers already using streaming video service such as Apple TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu. (In broadcasting, over-the-top content refers to delivery of audio, video, and other media over the Internet without the involvement of a multiple-system operator in the control or distribution of the content.)

Released in June, a Zogby Analytics survey commissioned by CALinnovates, a technology advocacy coalition that serves as a bridge between technology communities and policymakers in Sacramento and Washington, found that “cord cutter” platform adoption is already widespread, and that fewer than half of Americans believe that cable and satellite TV service as we know it will remain widespread in 2020.

Cord cutting, the act of utilizing digital distribution platforms over or in addition to cable or satellite services, is growing as new services emerge and wireless broadband enables consumers to watch what, where and when they want. The Zogby Analytics survey found a clear trend towards streaming alternatives:

° Forty-four percent of consumers are already accessing movies and television via “cord cutters.” That includes 57 percent of consumers between the ages of 18-29, and 63 percent of parents with a child under 17.

° Only 42.5 percent of consumers believe that cable or satellite TV service will remain in wide use in 2020. Among women, the figure drops to 37 percent.

° Just 37 percent of consumers between the ages of 18-24 plan to continue to subscribe to cable or satellite TV service.

° A mere 28 percent of consumers between the ages of 18-24 plan to continue to watch their favorite shows live using satellite or cable.

“It’s no longer accurate to simply say that streaming video is the future of entertainment, because the future is now,” says CALinnovates Executive Director Mike Montgomery. “That is why policymakers need to understand that Americans are rapidly adopting these technologies, and that regulations must enable this next generation of technology to flourish and innovate.”