updated 07:54 am EDT, Mon March 24, 2014
Early-stage talks could see Apple-supplied device with higher-quality connection
Apple is reportedly in discussions with Comcast, which could see the two collaborate on a streaming TV service. Sources for the Wall Street Journal claim the service would involve Apple supplying the set-top box to customers, with Comcast giving the device preferential treatment in the bandwidth management of the connection itself.
Though it is stressed the talks are still in its earlier stages, it is suggested the device and accompanying service could involve the streaming of live and on-demand TV, and DVR functionality with programs stored in the cloud instead of locally. By getting Comcast on board to ensure a suitable connection is available in the "last mile" to customer's homes, the service should in theory have minimal issues relating to slower connections, avoiding buffering or switching users to a lower bit rate of stream.
The prospective service could also help turn the tide in subscriber numbers of pay TV. A recent report noted a 6 percent drop in users, with Comcast alone losing 305,000 subscribers from its subscription TV services. It is thought the service could help advance the technology used in set-top boxes, making them closer to apps and services used by cord-cutters and tablet users, something which could stem the tide of users away from online alternatives like Netflix.
While the eventual result sounds promising, there are still a number of considerable issues that need to be addressed by both sides. Comcast would be required to make improvements to its network equipment in order to provide a suitable connection, state report sources. There is apparently a difference in opinion as to how to deal with Comcast user data, with Apple looking to use Apple IDs and controlling the data, and Comcast wishing to retain it.
The costs of the service, particularly to the live and on-demand TV aspects, are also a sticking point, with Apple requesting part of the monthly subscription fee for itself. Comcast is also concerned over how much the service will cost customers, by making sure Apple's content licensing costs does not increase the service price higher than current pay-TV services.