By Ryan Lawler
August Journalism, anyone? Just because some outlets have a short memory, let's get this out of the way right up front: Yes, Apple (AAPL) is in discussions with cable operators, and has been for months. Of course, just because Apple's strategy hasn't actually changed recently won't stop some other sites from acting like the heavens have opened up and Steve Jobs himself is negotiating these deals.*
Anyway, just to bring everyone up to speed about why I'm even writing this today: The latest non-news in the Apple TV saga comes from the Wall Street Journal, which reports that Apple is "is in talks with some of the biggest U.S. cable operators" about getting them to deliver live TV through one of its products - maybe a next-generation set-top box or even (gasp!) a TV.
Well, that's great except Bloomberg reported that Apple was talking to carriers like AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) about some sort of TV back in February. Oh yeah, and the Globe and Mail reported Apple was pursuing partnerships with Canadian operators Rogers (RCI) and BCE around the same time.
Apparently the news here is that the companies Apple is talking to are really big. After all, AT&T and Verizon are relative newcomers on the TV market, compared to industry stalwarts like Comcast (CMCSA) or Time Warner Cable (TWC).
Or maybe it's that Apple is offering up one of its own devices as a set-top box replacement? If true, it's not that revolutionary of an idea, and it's not that surprising. After all, Apple has pay TV providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, AT&T, Verizon, DirecTV (DTV), Dish Network (DISH), etc. are all already building iPad apps… So why not get them on board with apps that would take their live and on-demand video streams over the top and put them on their subscribers' TV, without needing a second or third set-top box? (Microsoft's Xbox already allows cable operators to do this, and they seem just fine with that.)
So there are plenty of reasons why this isn't news, and isn't particularly earth-shattering, but here's why it would make sense:
- Cable companies know that users are already buying Apple products like iPads and the Apple TV anyway, so why not build apps for devices that they already own, or may want to.
- The current generation of set-top boxes sucks, and they could most likely build a better user interface on an Apple device with an open SDK, and update and iterate on it more quickly than some legacy piece of shit from Cisco (CSCO) or Motorola.
- Cable companies would rather have the consumers bring their own devices, rather than having to pay for crappy set-top boxes themselves and leasing them out to subscribers.
Maybe the reason we're all talking about this is that it finally sort of shuts the door on Apple's long-rumored plans to build its own over-the-top TV service. Or maybe it's because the mythical iTV, which Gene Munster has been saying will come any day now, looks like it's not coming by the end of the year after all?
Or maybe, well, maybe it's just because it's August and there's nothing else going on.
* Seriously, Business Insider?