“Apple Inc. a few months ago approached Time Warner about pursuing a combination, and though the discussions didn’t progress beyond a preliminary stage, Apple is now monitoring the situation, people familiar with the matter said Friday,” Shalini Ramachandran, Dana Mattioli and Keach Hagey report for The Wall Street Journal. “AT&T is now in advanced talks to purchase Time Warner, The Wall Street Journal has reported, and a deal could come together within days.”

“The talks for Time Warner suggest there is a greater merger dance occurring in the media industry as conglomerates, telecom companies and tech giants try to stake their claim on the future,” Ramachandran, Mattioli and Hagey report. “A host of other contenders could jump into the fray for Time Warner and scuttle the planned deal, media executives and analysts say.”

“Time Warner is viewed as perhaps the most attractive stand-alone media asset, given its premium content brands—which include HBO, CNN and Warner Bros.–and the fact it doesn’t have a controlling shareholder,” Ramachandran, Mattioli and Hagey report. “From Apple’s end, executives under Chief Executive Tim Cook were involved in the earlier talks. Apple has pursued plans to build an online TV service and has begun creating original programming of its own. Before its most recent approach, Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services, brought up a potential combination in a meeting with Time Warner’s head of corporate strategy Olaf Olafsson last year, the people said, though the talks never went further than that.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote back in January, “Apple should use their cash pile to create some much needed leverage to finally get their Apple TV subscription bundle(s) up and running even if all they do is flash their cash around.”

Apple’s “skinny bundle” will have to have ESPN. It will also likely require the “Big Four” networks.

What others networks should be considered to be must-haves? Beyond the Big Four, if you go by primetime ratings (total viewers), the top 20 U.S. cable networks are:

2. Fox News Channel
2. USA
3. TBS
4. Disney
5. Discovery Channel
6. History Channel
7. TNT
9. Nickelodeon
10. AMC
11. Adult Swim
12. FX
13. Cartoon Network
14. Food Channel
15. Lifetime
16. ABC Family
17. Syfy
18. TLC
19. Hallmark
20. Investigation Discovery

Source: Nielsen estimates, Live plus-3 for Dec. 29, 2014 – Dec. 16, 2015 (M-Su 8-11 p.m.)

Apple’s suggestion of Time Warner bid hints at Hollywood ambitions – May 26, 2016
Apple contemplates dramatic push into media industry – May 26, 2016
Apple’s Eddy Cue proposed bid for Time Warner – May 26, 2016
Obviously, Apple could buy Time Warner, but they shouldn’t – January 14, 2016
Apple eyeing Time Warner assets to ease launch of a stand-alone streaming TV service – January 13, 2016