updated 06:00 pm EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Subscribers would be able to access channels from within device
If a reported deal between Apple and Time Warner Cable goes through, subscribers for the latter will be able to access channels and programs directly through the Apple TV set-top box at some point in the near future, Bloomberg says. The move, if true, will be announced at some point later this year and continue the expansion of services Apple is offering directly through Apple TV so that users don't have to leave the environment to enjoy broadcast content. The negotiations follow on the heels of deals with HBO (owned by Time Warner) and Disney's ESPN.
Bolstering the report is the recent Apple hiring of a senior Hulu executive, Pete Distad. The former SVP of marketing and distribution for TV content aggregator Hulu will join Apple to help with negotiations for media and cable companies -- a sign that the iPhone maker wants to get existing cable companies on board for funnelling their services through Apple TV. In the past, Apple has been very eager to try and get all the major content providers on board before announcing any new device or change of service -- indicating that the company has something big in mind for Apple TV or a long-rumored Apple HDTV device.
Time Warner already has deals with Apple for making its subscription service available on iOS and Android devices, as well as some agreements for "smart TVs" made by Samsung and similar arrangements for the Xbox console and Roku's set-top boxes. The recent expansion of Apple TV services is also spurring sales of the $99 black box, which now offers a wide array of premium services, web video, streaming services like Netflix and other choices that make it possible for users to stay within the Apple TV environment, particularly as consumers become more selective in their TV viewing and rely increasingly on local media or web-based offerings for entertainment.
Apple CEO Tim Cook has said on numerous occasions that the entire TV experience needs a rethink, and confirmed that it is "an area of intense interest" to Apple. The industry as a whole has chiefly been concerned with gimmicks like 3D or ever-larger or higher-resolution HDTV units in an effort to lure back consumers who spend more time on the Internet. However, the migration continues -- including "cable cutters" who have given up on live TV through services like Time Warner Cable entirely due to the low quality of shows and the high cost, and who have dramatically reduced their TV watching (but often rent from iTunes or use services like Netflix to "catch up" on content they know is of interest to them) as a result.
Cable providers may be looking to devices such as Roku or Apple TV as a means to retain subscribers while giving them an easier interface to discover and watch shows more selectively. Apple may be offering providers a method to more easily achieve the long-sought-after (by consumers) "a la carte" approach to cable television, or at least a combination interface that blends web, broadcast and local media into a smoother, more enjoyable interface. The company has sold more than 13 million Apple TV units thus far, and sales are said to be accelerating with the expanded service options.