5 Things About Television

  1. “Your 1920x1080 TV takes a 1920x1080 signal, chops the edges off it and then stretches the rest to fit the screen because of decisions made in the 1930s.”
    Matthew Garrett

  2. “120Hz and 240Hz TVs have the potential to show you each 24p frame for exactly 1/24th of a second, perfectly replicating The Way Movies Look, and that’s great. The problem is, it’s hard to make them do that, because of awful motion-smoothing settings that are On by default.”
    Stu Maschwitz

  3. “‘Can I choose?’, Beatrix asks. She’s still confused. She thinks this is like home where one can choose from a selection of things to watch. A well organized list of suggestions and options with clear box cover shots of all of her favorites. I have to explain again that it does not work that way on television. That we have to watch whatever is on and, if there is nothing you want to watch that is on then you just have to turn it off. Which we do.”
    Patrick Rhone

  4. “You know those [unskippable] FBI warning messages that appear at the beginning of DVDs and Blu-ray discs? They’re getting an upgrade—and they’re multiplying.
    The US government yesterday rolled out not one but two copyright notices, one to “warn” and one to “educate.” Six major movie studios will begin using the new notices this week.”
    Nate Anderson

  5. “We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent [television],” he said. “[Apple is] not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”
    — (Inspired by) Ed Colligan

42 comments left


Toy Needle

Apple never walks in and just figures it out, do they?

Rob +1

I hope that Apple offers a subscription model for Apple TV, and that there is decent content in the Apple stores outside the US.



The CW

with the iPhone they offered their take on phones through a single carrier, AT&T. What if Apple made a similar deal with Comcast or Time Warner?


Apple’s not going to just walk in and figure it out. They’re going to slowly wade in, learning what they can as they go along, figuring out what really needs fixing and how to fix it. Then they will figure it out, probably.

Starved Fool

@The CW - the difference there is Comcast and Time Warner aren’t available in all markets, but AT&T is.


Regarding #1, it’s not uncommon for a 1080 TV to have a setting that shows pixel-for-pixel what it’s receiving (along with a couple other zoom options). Unfortunately, it’s typically buried deep in the menus, so it’s easiest to just pick something close and live with it.

(Or, you can plug your TV into an old computer, and keep the TV set to pixel-perfect, and only watch TV through your computer. Funny idea, that.)

Getting the zoom and aspect ratio wrong on your HDTV are the blinking “12:00” of the 21st century.


Having to know how to configure a HDTV to show digital content is exactly why Apple can make an impact in the TV market. I just want it to work.

Mark S.

I’m thinking Apple sacrifices it’s content sales in exchange for opening an app store for the AppleTV. Anyone else notice the WSJ app/channel on the AppleTV has commercials that are clearly marked in the show’s timeline? It’s highly likely Apple will open the AppleTV to third-party apps and provide both an ad-supported model as well as an in-app purchase/subscription model per their 70/30 split.



Saw the blog through <daringfireball.net> and I love the style/theme you’ve got going here. Have you done a post explaining any of the backend / design work on it? I especially like the way it handles pagination “pages/x-y/”.

At any rate, great post, every time I’m sick of hearing about the iTV a simple post like this comes along and gets me excited again.


Patrick Rhone

Thanks for including me.


If Beatrix had 5 cartoon channels like virtually every cable customer has, she’d likely find something worth watching, but turning off the TV and doing something else is an even better option. Only 7% of kids get enough physical activity.

I’ve compared buying seasons through iTunes to paying for cable. For the roughly 10 dramas and collection of kid friendly content my family watches, iTunes is close to three times the price. Unless that changes, I will continue to have no interest in Apple’s approach to television.

Those unskippable warnings and previews drive people crazy. My kids no longer want to watch the movies we have on optical discs because it takes so bloody long to actually get to the movie. I feel the same way about going to a movie theatre where the audience is bombarded with commercials and previews. An industry that whines so much about piracy should stop doing things that drive ordinary people to seek content from unauthorized sources.

Ted T.

Re: #1 — at first I said, huh, what? But I quickly realized that eons ago I burrowed my way from the hard to figure out setting and set the HDTV to “Native” mode with leaves 1080P alone. “Native” however is not the default — it really would be as simple as having different factory default settings…

#2 — amen. And don’t get me started on the legacy PAL vs. NTSC 50/60 Hz fiasco — my fancy HDTV still can’t play my PAL DVDs natively at 50 or 100Hz…

Iain Anderson

I think #1 depends on the TV. Yes, it can take some work to get external boxes to display natively, but here in Australia, 1080p broadcasts (the few we have) will show up un-zoomed on at least a Sony Bravia from a couple of years ago. SD channels will be zoomed, HD will not — makes sense, as the edges of SD aren’t guaranteed “safe”. The situation in the US is probably made worse due to fact that many more of you do have an external cable box.

I really have no explanation for why US TVs are so xenophobic, though; all PAL TVs have been able to handle NTSC content for years.


That Beatrix isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, is she?

Stu Maschwitz

How lovely to be included here. Thanks!


@Fritz… Beatrix is probably 4 years old. Speaking of sharp knives, I thought that was pretty obvious.

Apple is about to fix TV and, strangely, watching the TV/movie industry stumble and grapple with a new world with new expectations and new technologies is a bit like the music industry years ago. They seem hell bent to prove their cluelessness at every step. New unskippable warnings are a sign of that. Remember CDs?

As for price, Hulu is already a better deal than cable. So you have to ask yourself: Is Apple going to be able to match Hulu prices while also bringing some killer hardware and software to the table?


Matthew Garrett is a Linux developer talking about issues you run into when using a TV as a computer monitor. He’s not wrong that there’s a lot of complexity and foolishness going on, but the vast majority of what he’s complaining about really doesn’t matter to regular people, who use their TVs to watch, you know, TV.


There are so many problems, TV is ripe for fixing.

And they could do 4KTV with 4K iTunes and 4K Final Cut and even 4K iMovie and iPhone cameras. How can anyone else compete with that?


Apple can fix TV, but content providers will have to let them.




An industry that whines so much about piracy should stop doing things that drive ordinary people to seek content from unauthorized sources.

…I couldn’t agree more.

Mark S.

RE: Issues of price on iTunes content vs. subscription TV

Admittedly cutting the cord doesn’t make sense for everyone in terms of cost. I made a list of every show we watch, the channels they were on, and the television package we needed to access all those channels.

We watched one show on AMC but that required us to get a higher tier cable package and we watched a few shows on HBO but none were year long (even though we paid for 12-months). Under these conditions it made financial sense to purchase the shows outright or watch them through Hulu Plus on the barely-satisfactory Samsung Internet-enabled TV. However, my parents looked at their viewing habits and it turned it cutting the cord didn’t make financial sense.

So there you go.


Oh, and Alex, I love your captcha and the old-style numbers in the text field…


“I figured it out” or whatever Steve Jobs said in the book - he was talking about the distribution model. Why does everyone think the problem he was so worried about solving was the interface? And what idiot thinks siri is the solution?


Jeff +1

I did the math and decided to cut cable after this TV season wraps up. Buying on iTunes is a little more expensive, but it’s worth it for the convenience of not being chained to one box. I can’t watch what I DVRed at the gym. If I go somewhere for the weekend and want to watch something, I’m stuck having to remember to ask someone to DVR it for me and hoping they remember to actually do it. It’s asinine.

Granted, I’m single and live alone, and I would imagine cable may still be a better option financially if you live with others.


And even people not living in the US have to read thos stupid FBI warnings!


Apple has over $100 billion in the bank. They could afford to prepay for a lot of content if they needed to, to let them sell hardware.


@Starved Fool: Since when has AT&T been “available in all markets”? Or are you falling in to the common trap of forgetting the US != the world?


I’ve got a Roku and an Apple TV hooked up to our large screen living room TV set — both see more use than the DirecTV satellite box.

That said, I still have a hard time seeing how Apple will deal with the highly commoditized TV set market; just look at how quickly prices have dropped post-Christmas. The only solution that makes sense to me is to offer a line of very dumb screens with a removable box that uses a standard interface and that can fully control the screen, turning it into a very smart screen. Think of the current Apple TV box, but with an iPod/iPhone/iPad interface: an iTV. You want to upgrade your set, you buy a new (dumb) screen and plug the iTV box into the appropriate spot.

This approach would also let third-party vendors manufacture their own iTV-compatible dumb screens (as well as projectors), while Apple can play all it wants in the top-of-the-line, premium-priced ‘retina display’ sets.


Apple has a uncanny way of bringing a new and unprecedented product to the table and make it so attractive that everyone will sell their left “whatever” to get one. They changed the music , mobile, and internet industries this way by letting the sales numbers speak volumes. Enough so that the said industry heads have to evolve and do whatever it takes to make the customers happy. What make the television heads think that its going to be any different in their industry when Apple comes knocking?


One does not simply walk into television.



@ Douglas

The only difference here is that video content is far more locked down than music ever was. Apple was able to revolutionize music because there were no barriers to get the content off a music CD. If the same were true for DVD, I have no doubt Apple would have built DVD-ripping into iTunes. To the detriment of the rest of us, the video industry has unfortunately learned from the mistakes the music industry made. It’s going to be far more difficult (but not impossible) for Apple to disrupt the video industry…


Apple TV + Over The Air HDTV seems like a pretty sweet compromise… the only trouble is that sporting event coverage seems to be moving from the broadcasters to cable only. Here in Canada, the biggest satellite and cable companies are collecting sports teams and sports networks and I can only guess they are trying to lock-in sports-fan subscribers.


The problem to be solved is only 20% interface/hardware and 80% content entanglements. Slapping Apple TV in a full size monitor and adding Siri is hardly a selling point that will entice people to pay 1000 plus dollars for a new TV. Finding a way for my family to watch everything we want, when we want, without having to connect four other boxes all with their own set of complications and crappy interfaces is the real hurdle to be overcome. And the content companies hold all the cards.

David Leppik

As others have mentioned, the problem is mainly content, not UI. Apple is at a disadvantage relative to Netflix. Indeed, unless you are a sports fan or really feel the need to be among the first to watch new shows, there’s no reason to get cable— or even broadcast TV. Anything worthwhile— with the exception of sports and current events— makes it to Netflix eventually. I cut the cord a decade ago and haven’t looked back.

Joe Pantuso

Your captcha is broken.


In regards to #2 This is somewhat incorrect. Films are generally shot at 24 frames per second but using a shutter in the projector each frame is shown twice. So your eye actually sees 48 flashes per second. Each frame is shown twice. This rate was set in the 1920s with the advent of talking pictures. Note, much of the early animation is actually have a true frame rate of 12 frames per second.


Interestingly, we just shed the premium channels from our service. That’s HBO, Showtime, Starz and that lot… mostly as a cost cutting measure. Even more interesting, Verizon tossed out their best BRIBE in giving us the “everything” entertainment channel till the end of the billing period. But we mostly hate that every change in their user interface is ever more blatantly designed to steer viewers towards Pay-Per-View content and make the channel guide every more hostile and user unfriendly.

marti garaughty

Now that my main “television” is a 27” iMac and the net has totally replaced my need for cable, I’m wondering what the next leap forward will be.


Here’s the thing about Apple. Apple could have made a television years ago and it would have been perfectly fine and very competitive in the marketplace. But Apple doesn’t want to just be “competitive”, they want to be “revolutionary”. So rather than release a “competitive” TV set five years ago they took that time to develop it into something “revolutionary”. When you have Apple’s cash in the bank, you can take the time to do it right the first time.

garry wood +1

Of course you miss out the missing link within the evolution of TV.

  1. In the 50s and 60s came the great invention of TV dinners and the trend to sit in front of vision box and eat them. Now we are on the verge of having our TV delivered to us on our laps……where the smeg do we put the TV dinner NOW!!!.

I am constantly finding my kids watching their IPADS at the breakfast table. The IPAD is centre stage and the bowl of cereal is off to one side. I truely think if I wasnt there to remind them that if they dont eat they wont have the strength to press the home button, they would starve to death. Of course this is the argument regarding families and the evolution of content delivery. As this content becomes more and more personal to the user they become less personable. It started with the radio being the center of the household, then moved to the TV, then to consoles. However each change still required the careful planning and delegation of entertainment resources.
I feel since the IPAD and IPHONE has taken the world by storm it has introduced a completely new family dynamic. No longer do siblings and parents need to juggle show times, TVs,DVDs,…..etc. Content is delivered immediately and efficiently locally to the user. So that interaction has gone. The social skills needed to negotiate a favorite show viewing, a time for gaming, a moment on the family PC have gone and I just don’t know whether this is a good thing.

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