Apple in talks to revamp Apple TV set top box; scaled-back plans would rely on cable providers

“Apple Inc. appears to be scaling back its lofty TV industry plans,” Shalini Ramachandran, Amol Sharma and Daisuke Wakabayashi report for The Wall Street Journal. “The company is talking to media companies and pay TV distributors including Time Warner Cable Inc. about launching a revamped Apple-branded TV set-top box in coming months, according to people familiar with the matter. Previously, the company had been trying to license TV programming for its own [“”over the top”] Internet-based TV service.”

“In the current discussions, which involve at least two big media companies, Apple envisages working with cable companies, rather than competing against them, the people said,” Ramachandran, Sharma and Wakabayashi report. “For programming, it would rely on cable providers to acquire programming rights from media companies, rather than acquire them on its own, the people said. Apple might consider seeking some rights directly in the future, one of the people said. One of the people said Apple was aiming to release the new set-top box as early as June, though another cautioned the device might not be ready for several months after that.”

“Instead of asking for full current seasons of shows, it is asking programmers for just the most recent five episodes of current-season shows—the standard for video-on-demand services in the TV industry, a person familiar with the matter said. Apple is also proposing to disable fast-forwarding on shows for three days after they air, which would protect TV channels,” Ramachandran, Sharma and Wakabayashi report. “It is unclear whether Apple would sell the box directly to customers, as it does with Apple TV, or reach a deal with a cable operator to distribute the box and lease it to customers.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
$45.2 billion Comcast, Time Warner merger could be good news for Apple – February 13, 2014
Comcast to buy Time Warner Cable in $44.2 billion all-stock deal – February 12, 2014
Apple’s Eddy Cue back in the news, cutting deals in Hollywood – February 12, 2014
Apple to debut new set top box in April for Christmas launch; currently negotiating with Time Warner Cable, others – February 12, 2014


  1. Interesting… currently I use free over-the-air television along with Netflix and the occasional iTunes store purchase. If the future iterations of Apple TV requires a cable subscription to access all of it’s features, I’ll opt out of that Apple paradigm. Hopefully Apple has a plan to cater to those who have OTA digital television and don’t want to go back to cable TV services.

    1. “If the future iterations of Apple TV requires a cable subscription to access all of it’s features…”

      Yeah, I’m hoping what this means is that an Apple TV would have a cable company app, through which said provider their services with subscription. I don’t think there is any way in which ALL of the features would require subscription – they are not going to phase out iTunes from Apple TV.

  2. We pay exorbitant fees to Foxtel, the only pay tv available in Australia to get continual repeats of shows that are usually 5-10+ years old. When something good comes along like Game of Thrones, they are the only place to get it legally thanks to the deal they have with HBO.
    Rumor has it Netflix is coming to Australia this year and when it does its bye bye foxtel you overpriced, underdelivering arseholes.
    Apple TV doesn’t interest me very much as it pretty much has 1 use in Australia, play stuff bought from iTunes and the upcoming revamp will likely be US only or a very long wait for the rest of us. We only just got iTunes radio turned on the other day

    1. I’m not a massive TV watcher but I use my Apple TV to beam content from my phone from the FTA channels’ catchup services like iView. Also I have a subscription to BBC iPlayer and watch foreign news through LiveStation.

      Ads are minimal and quality is good if the internet behaves. Why pay upwards of $100 per month for more ads? (Although I empathise with sports lovers who need Foxtel.)

  3. So much for the rumors from the other day about Apple buying up a bunch of bandwidth for possible its own TV Network or something along those lines. All rumors! I hope this one isn’t true, but when you have a company like Comcast trying to buy up the competition and owns a network like NBC, they won’t deal with Apple no matter what so its a lost cause!

  4. I own all of my Apple TVs so I DON’T have to subscribe to cable/satellite providers. I have absolutely no use for an Apple TV that requires me to throw away my money on a subscription. Come on, Apple, you were supposed to free us from this bull shit!

  5. The more we advance the more we regress. If this deal is allowed while the future of net neutrality is in the air, we could see a much faster exodus from cable/AT&T to on-line web services and a new resurgence in the old home video library. Instead of VHS tapes it be DVD/Blu-Ray movies and shows ripped to a media server. The consumer can’t seem to catch a break. Greed would consume itself if not properly chained.

    If Apple is to do something, now is the time.

  6. Yep, I am keeping DTV, Netflix, Hulu, OTA and XBMC for the foreseeable future.

    Apple, if you can’t do it right, the first time, don’t do it yet, wait. You won’t be able to fix it, if you let them draw the line in your territory. These guys are hardened, you can’t wear them down. All you can do is scare them into submission, because they would loose customers to you, for your uncompromising plans. Get it? you can’t compromise, if you want to fix the over all problem. Maybe you should buy TimeWarner, not because it’s a good fit, it’s a power play.

    Lot’s of people would $#!^ bricks if you do it. (Actually buy Fox, Disney, or NBC Universal/Viacom) Then spin it off, actually you don’t even have to buy them, just controlling interest.

        1. Yes, Disney gets them Pixar and Lucasfilm, not to mention ESPN. Can you picture the strokes and heart attacks in the cable industry if Apple offered a stand alone subscription to ESPN for $15 a month?

          It would also get them about 100 other entities like The History Channel, Touchstone, etc.

            1. Actually, ESPN all by itself is probably responsible for 25% of the subscribers paying Comcast and Dish for service. ESPN has exclusive rights to Monday Night (and Thursday Night) Football, the college BCS games, most regular season college games (like the Oregon Ducks), and about half the NASCAR races. A lot of people subscribe to the minimum level hat will get them ESPN. If ESPN were on Apple TV in iTunes for a reasonable stand alone fee I think a huge number of people would drop cable and satellite.

            2. I think Eddie Cue is secretly negotiating a tripartite deal with Apple, Cuba and Washington. Diplomatic relations would be eased, trade embargoes would be lifted, fine cigars would commence shipments, 1950s automotive parts shipments would resume, and MLB would get 36 players to be named later. Apple’s cut? Player endorsements.

  7. If this report is true, it is not surprising. Cook hasn’t inspired investors or die-hard Mac users, what makes anyone think he’s going to inspire Hollywood? Despite the pile of cash, Cook seems to think that all Apple can do is provide an iOS interface on top of whatever s#*% that cable companies bundle. Pathetic.

    Netflix wins again.

  8. “or reach a deal with a cable operator to distribute the box and lease it to customers”

    Lease or renting the box to us is one of the biggest scams since Ma Bell forced us to rent their telephones by making it illegal to buy telephones.

    I’ve paid for my cable (Verizon) box several times over with their tacked on box rental fees and it still belongs to them. This kind of control has also allowed them to disable the ability to plug in an external hard drive.

    1. Then buy a Tivo or one of various other DVRs.. Even if you paid monthly (instead of the more sane lifetime subscription), it likely would be CHEAPER than your cable box, definitely have a better UI, and be hardware you own/can modify/and can download (unprotected) shows from.

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