Editor’s Corner—Charter’s Apple TV integration has more questions than answers

Apple TV (Apple)
Apple's announcement of the Spectrum TV app for its Apple TV 4K leaves a lot of unanswered questions, and Charter is providing little insight. (Apple)

“Apple hopes to (finally) kill off the cable box,” reads a headline from a Fortune story this week, following up on Apple’s announcement that Charter’s Spectrum TV app will soon be available for the Apple TV 4K.

Dan Frankel

“As more and more cable companies fundamentally shift how video gets to your TV, your typical cable box is becoming a thing of the past," Apple TV's lead designer said on stage at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference, where the announcement originated. 

My question: Did we really just witness a key step in the transition of pay TV to an app-based paradigm? Or was it just a glorified TV Everywhere device announcement? Charter isn’t providing any insight.

For one thing, it remains unclear as to whether Charter’s integration of its video service into the newest Apple TV device means that subscribers don’t need to lease a cable box to get service. 

RELATED: Charter to launch Spectrum TV app on Apple TV 4K

Emails to Charter reps for confirmation on that have not been responded to. 

“I believe you need a Spectrum TV subscription (same as Roku, Samsung TV),” noted one individual close to the cable company, providing little, if any, clarity on the issue. 

The Spectrum TV app has been available on Roku for several years and functions as a simple authenticated multiscreen app—meaning users still lease a cable box, and the app allows them to see a certain number of TVE-available channels on the OTT device, just as they can on iOS and Android mobile devices. 

Another thing I’m unclear on: Will Charter be handing out Apple TV 4K devices to promote services like Spectrum Choice, which streams a skinny bundle of broadcast and cable channels over Charter’s managed network?

“Charter joins AT&T’s DirecTV Now in the U.S., CANAL+ in France and Salt in Switzerland, which have begun offering their customers Apple TV 4K with their services,” Apple said in a Developers Conference blog post this week focused on the Apple TV 4K.

Again, it has been crickets from the Charter’s corporate communications, which in a brief follow-up statement to Apple’s announcement, would only say that it will be offering Apple iPhones and and iPads as part of its upcoming mobile service—the launch of which, like the debut of the Spectrum TV app on Apple’s OTT device, has a date left uncertain.

Oh, and how about 4K? Will Apple TV 4K be used as yet another TVE extension to the company’s new 4K-incapable Worldbox 2.0 set-top, which currently directs 4K-desirous subscribers to port over to their 4K-capable Roku devices?

Strangely, rather than answering some of these questions, the bulk of that Charter response was focused on the company’s broadband initiatives.

“Since 2014, we’ve invested more than $27 billion in infrastructure and technology, and these investments are paying off for our customers,” boasted the company, which is continually trying to emphasize its role as a connectivity provider. 

Meanwhile, on LinkedIn, my article about the Apple announcement generated an interesting discussion regarding Apple TV 4K’s “zero sign-in” feature, which theoretically would take away the hassle of Spectrum TV users having to enter usernames and passwords every time they want to watch a channel on the OTT device. 

“I’m curious how this zero sign-in works for account sharers. If I’m on a different ISP than video provider, I’m locked out of the great benefit. I really dislike having to go back online with code from app, to login to authenticate, and it’s only been a few days since I last used the app,” wrote one user.

Another poster summed up the questioning as probably useless until the Spectrum TV app for Apple TV 4K finally hits the market, whenever that is. 

“This is all for nought until we see the implementation in the fall,” he said, optimistically certain about the timeline. “So, let's all stay tuned!”