updated 01:19 pm EDT, Thu August 22, 2013
Could include pay TV service
Apple is adopting a new strategy towards getting content for its TV set, sources say. For years the company has tried talking to cable companies, but made little progress. Now though the company is allegedly latching onto an app-based strategy, and talking directly to content providers. Some providers already have apps on the Apple TV set-top box -- namely HBO and Disney's ESPN -- but Apple is also said to be negotiating with companies like Viacom, which owns networks like Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and MTV.
It's uncertain how many of the deals are close to completion. Some of the sources warn that because the TV industry as a whole is shaking up, "everybody is talking with everybody."
The sources additionally claim that Apple's strategy could involve creating its own pay TV service, going into direct competition with cable companies. Similar strategies are being pursued by firms like Sony, Intel, and Google, the difference being that Apple intends to control the entire experience end-to-end.
Few spokespeople are commenting on the matter. "This is very, very exploratory in nature. There are no formal discussions taking place," says ESPN spokesman Chris LaPlaca, referring to talks with any potential IPTV services. HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson comments that "We see our current model as our best model for now and have no plans to go over the top or to enter these markets in a different way." The term "over the top" refers to bypassing normal cable and satellite deals, for instance selling shows à la carte, or putting them up on services like Netflix and Hulu.
Because of how profitable bundles are, cable companies have reportedly been resisting Apple's plans, and even fighting to prevent individual networks from signing deals. The sources say though that Apple has decided it doesn't need most content providers on board before it can launch a TV set -- just material that's good enough to distinguish the product. The company is continuing to talk with cable businesses however, mainly with the idea that people could bypass a standard cable box and use the new TV's interface. One source suggests that another reason is the bandwidth involved in Internet-only services, which sometimes cripples outfits like Netflix.
If Apple does create its own pay TV service, becoming a virtual MPVD (multichannel video programming distributor), that could allow networks like HBO to avoid breaking contracts with cable providers.
Unmentioned is whether a pay TV service or the TV set have anything to do with the "television product" mentioned by M.G. Siegler. That could arrive as soon as November; such a timeframe would probably be too early for a TV, but possibly late enough for some form of subscription package accessible through the Apple TV set-top and other iOS devices.