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Report: Apple TV to be used as live television cable box?

updated 10:32 pm EDT, Wed August 15, 2012

Tim Cook allegedly meeting with industry-leading cable companies

According to "sources familiar with the matter," Apple is in discussions with the largest cable operators in the US to allow an Apple device, such as an Apple TV, to be used as a cable box for watching live television and other content. No deals appear to have been made at this time. The move would represent something of a sea change in Apple's strategy, with a more cooperative approach to media distribution, as opposed to the current licensing model with the the iTunes ecosystem.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Time Warner Cable's chief executive Glenn Britt in Idaho last month during a media conference. Cable executives have said in the past that Apple TV's poor market penetration makes live television streaming a low priority and have placed more emphasis on content delivery to the more popular iPad and iPhone.

Another potential stumbling block to the deal is Apple's current 30 percent share of transactions initiated through an Apple device. Apple also reportedly wants exclusivity from partners, while requiring the cable companies to service any Apple-produced device. Reports aren't clear if the discussions are focused on the current or future iteration of the Apple TV, or a device embedded in an Apple-branded television set.

Cook said during the last Apple earnings conference call that he believes Apple TV "will lead us somewhere" but so far hasn't elaborated on the comment. Apple TV sales have increased since its release in 2007. Apple has sold 2.7 million of the devices this fiscal year, surpassing last year's sales with the year being just over half complete. Despite its "hobby" status, the Apple TV captured 32 percent of the Internet-ready set-top box market in 2011.

by MacNN Staff



  1. mr100percent

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 12-06-99

    Makes a sudden lot of sense really. If AppleTV became its own cable box, it would have a sudden lot more access to content. Heck, I'd get one over a Tivo anyday.

    Most cable providers offer a Cablecard as an alternative to a full box, which lets the TV or DVR access the cable channels without a descrambler box. If Apple were to put a cablecard slot on AppleTV, people could replace the cable box with an AppleTV, and get all their iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, and Cable access all in one. Brilliant, if true.

  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 11-28-08

    Somehow, I can't picture Apple turning AppleTV into a recording device. I'll always prefer a cable box where I can store the media I record until I'm ready to view it. It's hard to imagine Apple building a specific device where consumers can record media other than what comes from Apple. No matter, I doubt if the talks will go anywhere if all the cable networks are scared of Apple taking over the cable industry. Unfortunately, the financial stakes are too high to let Apple get any sort of control. Consumers will have to continue muddling through with multiple devices and forced to get more services than they want.

  1. SockRolid

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 01-21-10

    @ iphonerulez re: "Somehow, I can't picture Apple turning AppleTV into a recording device."

    Agree. I think Apple sees TV content as two things: live broadcasts (news, concerts, sports, first-run TV shows) and pre-recorded content (movies and previously released TV shows.) If you take the concept of "pre-recorded" to its extreme, then there's no need to record your own content.

    Miss the 6 o'clock news? Watch the pre-recorded copy of it, streamed from Apple's servers. Want to see the ball game? Watch it live. The moment the game is over, it's "pre-recorded" and on Apple's servers for you to stream.

    Eliminating the whole DVR concept would drastically simplify the set-top box. In fact, it would resemble Apple TV as it is today.

  1. HappySlug

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-31-10

    I don't see this as particularly strange for Apple to pursue. If the device was essentially a TiVo married to an AppleTV, then it could allow live cable content and DVR functionality for just that content, but then have their iTunes rentals and iCloud streaming sitting along side. It would give them leverage to get the iTunes store in front of dramatically more people who may not be normal Apple customers.


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