Included in activist shareholder and investor Carl Icahn’s open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook requesting an increased stock buyback from the company is somewhat of a prediction about when Apple might release an actual Apple TV set, not just an updated set-top box. Icahn sees fiscal year 2016 as an opportunity for Apple to enter the home television market citing an upgrade cycle due to UltraHD displays.
As we highlighted in our previous letter, we believe UltraHD’s (ultra-high-definition television) superior picture quality in comparison to regular HD will drive a major TV replacement cycle as the price gap between them narrows. It should also be noted that Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, has referenced UltraHD as a major catalyst for Netflix going forward, and while this is true for Netflix, we believe it is also true for Apple. Against the backdrop of this replacement cycle, FY 2016 represents an opportune time to introduce an UltraHD TV set.
In his open letter to Tim Cook, Carl Icahn went on to predict that the hypothetical Apple-branded television will be sold in 55-inch and 65-inch sizes averaging $1,500 in price. With those display sizes and that average price point in mind, Icahn forecasts that Apple will sell 12 million TV sets in FY 2016 and 25 million TV sets in FY 2017.
Icahn goes on to cite Apple’s approach to saying no to new products in order to focus on existing ones, but continues to make the case for an UltraHD Apple TV set in FY 2016 using movies and TV shows sold through iTunes as a way to leverage both digital content sales and TV set sales.
Apple could sell UltraHD movies and shows through iTunes over the internet to the UltraHD TV since cable companies will likely be slow to upgrade their expensive linear infrastructure, as one example of an incremental opportunity. Another is the user interface of television, which you humorously (but accurately, in our opinion) described as being “stuck in the 1970s.”
The investor does hedge to a degree in his open letter to Cook, adding that “our earnings estimates would only be revised for FY 2016 and FY 2017” if Apple does not introduce an UltraHD Apple TV set. For Apple, fiscal year 2016 is just a year away as the company begins its fiscal year at the end of September.
While the idea of a big screen UltraHD Apple TV set priced as aggressively as Icahn forecasts sounds appealing, the latest Apple TV set-top box rumors have claimed even that device isn’t expected until next year after being in development for several months as we have reported.