Version 4.0 of Apple’s TV ‘bundle’ is the most muddled yet

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Steve Jobs’ original idea was simplicity itself.

From The Information ($):

Apple is considering creating a single subscription offering that would encompass its original TV shows, music service and magazine articles, two people familiar with the company’s plans told The Information…

The new subscription offering starts to answer the question of how Apple plans to make its slate of original shows available. Apple, which hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack van Amburg from Sony Pictures last June, reportedly has set a $1 billion budget for content acquisition and programming for 2018. While well below the $5 billion Amazon is spending and Netflix’s $8 billion-plus budget, the sum is a big new bet for a company that has always shied away from buying content, relying on extensive partnerships with television and movie studios with iTunes…

But questions remain about Apple’s ultimate TV distribution strategy, which is overseen by software and services chief, Eddy Cue. It isn’t clear if Apple would roll out some of its original programming for free initially and then bundle it with the other services, the people said. The discussions at Apple are still ongoing about what the subscription service ultimately will look like and could change, they said.

My take: Steve Jobs’ original idea was a best-of-TV package that let you buy only the shows you watched and not the 800 channels you didn’t. When the cable monopolies declined to play ball, Apple tried to get the TV programmers—Fox, CBS and ABC—to put together a “skinny bundle” of content it could sell for a relatively low monthly fee. Those negotiations collapsed, according to the Hollywood press, under the weight of Eddy Cue’s arrogance. Last Spring, Cue was pitching HBO, Showtime and Starz on a best-of-premium-cable bundle. That was before Apple hired Erlicht and Amburg and started rolling its own.

Now somebody at Apple is shopping the idea of bundling Apple-branded TV series (available, presumably, only inside Apple’s walled garden) with TV, music, books and news anybody can stream from anywhere. How’s that going to work?