Is Apple changing the station on its TV?

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.

At least that’s what Apple is apparently doing as it rethinks its TV strategy, choosing to partner with big cable companies on streaming content rather than putting together its own programming for an Internet-based television service.

Attributing its report to “people familiar with the matter,” the Wall Street Journal said a revamped Apple-branded TV set-top box could debut in coming months:

 Previously, the company had been trying to license TV programming for its own Internet-based TV service—similar to other “over the top” efforts from technology companies such as Sony, Intel and Google.

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. 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.

According to one of the Journal’s sources, Apple was hoping to release the new box as early as June, “though another cautioned the device might not be ready for several months after that.”

First, some background:

Apple TV, a digital media player introduced in 2007, offers users access to iTunes movies on the larger screen of a television as well as streaming video from Netflix, Hulu and other online services. However, Apple TV’s appeal to consumers as an alternative TV device has been limited by a paucity of live television offerings.

Over the past couple of years, Apple has pursued several ambitious paths to move deeper into the living room.

In 2012, the Journal reported that Apple was talking with cable operators like Time Warner Cable about a set-top box and was approaching media companies to gain rights for an ambitious Internet-based digital-video-recording service through the box. At the time, it was looking to offer full seasons of current shows, as well as live programming. Last year, it approached media companies with a proposal to pay extra for ad-free programming.

But apparently, Apple couldn’t nail down the right deals.
Programmers resisted the idea of ad-free TV, and Time Warner Cable balked at some of Apple’s early proposals, which included Apple essentially taking over the cable operator’s video-on-demand service.Comcast Corp. CMCSA -3.79% , meanwhile, has been aggressively deploying its own next-generation set-top box dubbed the X1.

Credit: Amazon.com

Patrick May Patrick May (316 Posts)

With more than 30 years on the front line of daily American journalism, I'm currently a staff writer with the San Jose Mercury News, covering Apple and writing people-centric business stories from Silicon Valley.