Apple on Monday announced its all-new TV app for Apple TV, including the new “Channels” feature for subscribing to third-party services through the TV app. Apple touts that the TV protects user privacy, but one streaming executive says they still get data back through the partnership.
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During an interview at the Fintech Ideas Festival today, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson addressed HBO’s deals with digital distributors. Interestingly, Stephenson said that through all of these deals, AT&T/WarnerMedia gets a certain amount of viewer data in return. HBO is a division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia.
Stephenson made the comment after being asked by CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin how HBO shares data with digital partners, especially one like Apple that is focused on user privacy:
Stephenson: It’s critical. The data is foundational to everything we’re doing. So you can assume that if we do a deal to distribute HBO through a certain digital distributor –
CNBC’s Sorkin: Like an Apple.
Stephenson: Just pick the one you want to pick, we will have access to data. It’s critical to everything we’re trying to do. It’s critical to the content creation algorithms, it’s critical to advertising delivery, it’s critical to marketing. It’s really critical to everything.
This is a different take on the situation than Apple offered yesterday. Apple’s VP of Services Peter Stern touted that the TV app and Channels feature both adhere to the following principles:
- Easy to use
- Attention to detail
- Expert curation
- Family Sharing
- Private and secure
“The Apple TV app delivers on all of these principles, including our commitment that we won’t share personal information with anyone.”
It’s unclear what data Apple would be sending back to HBO and AT&T. Ideally, the data is at least anonymized and unrecognizable. AT&T, however, likely wants data that is at least useful enough for things like marketing and targeting purposes, but whether or not Apple is sharing that specific of information is unclear.
Furthermore, Apple is hosting all Apple TV Channels content on its own servers, not simply piggybacking off of HBO’s streams. It’s highly likely that Stephenson is misinformed about the details of Apple’s agreement with HBO. It could also be that the data HBO gets is a simple breakdown of viewing numbers.
HBO is set to be one of many content providers integrated into the Apple TV Channels feature. Other partners include Showtime, CBS All Access, Acorn TV, Starz, and more. Apple TV Channels is available in beta now, but only with a handful of initial partners.
Stephenson also says that if you’re watching HBO as part of an Apple bundle, HBO will have access to the data about what you’re watching.
— Felix Salmon (@felixsalmon) March 27, 2019