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With Addition of HBO Go and WatchESPN, Are We Closer Than Ever to an Apple Inc. HDTV?


If its goal is to strengthen its content library before launching its HDTV, then Apple is well on its way.

On Wednesday, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) issued a press release saying that the streaming video lineup for its Apple TV set-top box had been strengthened with the addition of HBO Go (NYSE:TWX) and WatchESPN (NYSE:DIS).

Three other channels, Sky News, Crunchyroll, and Qello, which offer live news, sports, and current TV programming, have also been added to Apple TV's app slate in select markets.

The remaining big player that is still missing on Apple TV is Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and its Instant Video and Prime. With Amazon and Apple being fierce competitors in the world of digital streaming, Apple TV users might have to wait some time to see an Amazon app on their devices.

Still, this week's new additions bring Apple TV closer in its content offerings to rivals such as the Xbox 360 (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Roku. Apple's small media streaming box, which has slowly but surely grown its content, also has Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), Hulu Plus, iTunes TV and movies (and iTunes Radio when it is released in the fall), and YouTube (NASDAQ:GOOG).

With its app slate bolstered by HBO Go and WatchESPN, speculation has once again arisen that Apple is soon to launch its much-discussed and much-anticipated HDTV. While the likes of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) have already entered the smart TV fray, Apple has remained behind, with many attributing Apple's hesitance to its insistence on improving its content library and the smart TV user experience.

"Apple never enters a market unless they believe they can offer an earth-shattering shift in user experience. Television will be no exception," John Feland, founding CEO of consumer research firm Argus Insights, tells Minyanville. "Additional content is a requirement but not sufficient for Apple TV to rise above the competition in a market marked by both declining prices and sales volume."

Indeed, according to a report from market research firm HIS iSuppli, while sales of smart TVs from Samsung, LG Electronics Inc (KRX:066570), Sony Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:SNE), and others are rising enough to make up for the decline in sales of regular TVs, prices have also fallen as well. And given Apple's tendency to mark up its prices, it definitely needs to produce a game-changing product to justify a higher-than-average price.

"Our analysis of consumer demand has found that smart TVs have low app usage with consumers focused on Netflix and Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE:P) most of all," Feland comments, adding that "the diversity of app catalogs is increasing but Samsung and others have had little success in transitioning app-crazy consumers from tablets and smartphones to similar levels of app engagement on televisions."

Thus, the challenge for Apple in revolutionizing the smart TV user experience is to figure out how to get passive TV viewers to utilize apps on them more frequently,

"How will consumers leverage a second screen during television consumption, particularly during live events? How will Apple extend the already strong ecosystem that connects iPads, iPhones, and MacBooks into big screen experiences? That's the more interesting question [that Apple will have to answer before it ever unveils its HDTV]," Feland says.

See more:

Despite DreamWorks Animation Skg Inc Deal, There's Still a Bear Case for Netflix, Inc.

The Future of Android Looks More Like Apple Inc.

Will Microsoft Corporation's Reversal of Xbox One Policies Stunt Video Game Industry?

Twitter: @sterlingwong
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