Apple in talks with cable providers over set-top box that handles live TV

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
Apple may be taking their self-described Apple TV "hobby" a step further as new reports claim the company is in talks with major cable providers, asking them to let consumers use an Apple-branded set-top box to view live television and other video content.

According to people familiar with the talks, Apple has yet to reach a deal with any of the cable operators, possibly because of a reluctance on the part of the providers to let the tech giant into the live TV space, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The sources go on to say the technology involved in the proposed box could feasibly fit inside a television, though it is unclear what features are covered in Apple's plans. Currently, the Cupertino company sells the $99 Apple TV, a small black device that streams content from the internet, iTunes, Hulu and other sources, as well as from compatible devices like the iPad over AirPlay. Apparently the set-top box in discussion would add to those capabilities by allowing users to view live content.

In addition to the pressure from cable companies, which are hesitant to have their power eroded much like the record and wireless industries, Apple must face the challenge of getting consumers to purchase a box outright instead of renting it. Traditionally, cable subscribers rent their boxes directly from a cable provider for a nominal fee, but Apple would take on a model akin to TiVo's which hasn't made much of a dent in the market.

One of the sources claims Apple has been toying with the idea of building a cable box for over two years, before the company revamped the Apple TV into a small streaming device. Late Apple cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs reportedly cooled to the idea, noting that partnering with regional cable operators could cause issues because of their limited reach. Also at issue is that entertainment companies own a large portion of what is broadcast, not the cable operators, according to two sources.

Interestingly, one of the people familiar with the talks claims Apple has discussed interest in being an exclusive provider of set-top boxes using internet protocol tech, something the company has some expertise in given its previous Apple TV iterations.

Apple TV
Apple's current Apple TV is limited to streaming content. | Source: Apple


During the company's third fiscal quarter conference call in July, it was revealed that some 1.3 million Apple TVs were sold during the three month period, up 170 percent year-to-year. At the time, the total number of Apple TVs sold through the 2012 fiscal year stood at over 4 million units with an installed base of 6.8 million, a result that CEO Tim Cook called "pretty incredible."

Wednesday's news comes after Apple CEO Tim Cook met with Time Warner Cable chief executive Glen Britt at the annual Sun Valley media conference in July. According to the sources, Time Warner is one of the cable companies Apple is currently talking to over the mysterious set-top box.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 79
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member
    [QUOTE][/QUOTE]


    I see a patent lawsuit from Microsoft if apple does this
  • Reply 2 of 79
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    But… but I want to waste thousands on a giant television that I'll replace every single year instead of a $99 box!


     


    Just gotta keep reminding myself: I do want AI to report on everything, no matter how outlandish… 

  • Reply 3 of 79
    tokoloshtokolosh Posts: 101member


    I'd pay the PAC 12 Networks a whole lot more for a year's subscription than they would get through any user fees the cable/sats pay them each year. Please let this be true.

  • Reply 4 of 79
    davegeedavegee Posts: 2,765member
    Been saying this for at least a year now...

    Ever since Cablevision started rolling out an iOS app... We can see just about everything on iOS cept for the PPV stuff ... Then again that might have changed... They are totally embracing the iOS world it's quite amazing.

    Anyway I coud see this given what CV has been up to.
  • Reply 5 of 79
    So much for the cord cutters.
  • Reply 6 of 79
    rfhjrrfhjr Posts: 44member


    This direction for "Apple TV" is vastly superior to entering the commoditized flat screen market.  Let Sony, Sharp, Vizio, et al fight over the big box.  


     


    That market stinks, with low margins, high stocking and shipping expenses, and a generalized lack of enthusiasm amongst customers to upgrade.  Just getting the new set attached to the wall and the old set disposed of is a huge hassle and is inconsistent with the typical Apple upgrade cycle.  Stay away from the big set and sell an iPhone sized accessory that can link to any communications capable monitor. 

  • Reply 7 of 79
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 17,747member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by RFHJr View Post


    This direction for "Apple TV" is vastly superior to entering the commoditized flat screen market.  Let Sony, Sharp, Vizio, et al fight over the big box.  


     


    That market stinks, with low margins, high stocking and shipping expenses, and a generalized lack of enthusiasm amongst customers to upgrade.  Just getting the new set attached to the wall and the old set disposed of is a huge hassle and is inconsistent with the typical Apple upgrade cycle.  Stay away from the big set and sell an iPhone sized accessory that can link to any communications capable monitor. 



     


    That may not be true, depending on what their TV does.  If it is an integrated product that works with cable, fiber and satellite, has DVR etc...and delivers an exceptional viewing experience...it may be quite successful.  Breaking the cable and satellite content/hardware model is the issue.  If I had a chance to replace that lousy hardware with Apple?  Yeah, I'm in.  

  • Reply 8 of 79
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,429member
    I have to say, ever since I came to the States, 22 years ago, the story of how the cable companies hijacked the network's content and made money rebroadcasting it with their own ads and stayed out of prison has fascinated me. If Apple can work directly with the actual content providers it might be sweet revenge.
  • Reply 9 of 79
    blackbookblackbook Posts: 1,361member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by RFHJr View Post


    This direction for "Apple TV" is vastly superior to entering the commoditized flat screen market.  Let Sony, Sharp, Vizio, et al fight over the big box.  


     


    That market stinks, with low margins, high stocking and shipping expenses, and a generalized lack of enthusiasm amongst customers to upgrade.  Just getting the new set attached to the wall and the old set disposed of is a huge hassle and is inconsistent with the typical Apple upgrade cycle.  Stay away from the big set and sell an iPhone sized accessory that can link to any communications capable monitor. 



    One thing with this rumor is if they make a set top box that the cable companies then sell to you subsidized, they can make far more profits and margins.


     


    It'd be like the iPhone all over again, and I would expect exclusive deals with Comcast and Time Warner.


     


    I imagine that each box would cost $300-400, but after the cable companies subsidize them it would only cost consumers $99. Who wouldn't switch from their regular cable box to an Apple one especially if they get all the same programing plus an easy to use Apple user interface and iTunes connectivity?

  • Reply 10 of 79
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,429member
    sdw2001 wrote: »
    That may not be true, depending on what their TV does.  If it is an integrated product that works with cable, fiber and satellite, has DVR etc...and delivers an exceptional viewing experience...it may be quite successful.  Breaking the cable and satellite content/hardware model is the issue.  If I had a chance to replace that lousy hardware with Apple?  Yeah, I'm in.  

    DVR? You are in the wrong decade. Who on earth wants to record content when it is on demand?
  • Reply 11 of 79
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member


    The concept of "live TV" when referring to taped programs needs to die. Period.


     


    News channels can continue to exist as they always have. Special broadcasts like the Olympics and sporting events can do the same.


     


    But for regular shows? No, no. That's not how we reinvent television. If that's all this deal amounts to (and I don't imagine at all that it is), then Apple has truly failed spectacularly.

  • Reply 12 of 79


    Cord cutting is dead in the water for a lot of us, as long as the cable companies can pressure content providers not to release content online.


     


    Replacing the Cable Box with an Apple TV Styled "Tivo" is a good interim step.  ANYTHING would be better than the cable boxes.  And keeping it out of the TV means you don't have to worry about all of the negatives of an Apple branded Television.


     


    The up front cost isn't an issue for me, but I hate the $15/mo or whatever for the "privilege" of being able to time-shift their content...

  • Reply 13 of 79
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by aross99 View Post


    Cord cutting is dead in the water for a lot of us, as long as the cable companies can pressure content providers not to release content online.


     


    Replacing the Cable Box with an Apple TV Styled "Tivo" is a good interim step.  ANYTHING would be better than the cable boxes.  And keeping it out of the TV means you don't have to worry about all of the negatives of an Apple branded Television.


     


    The up front cost isn't an issue for me, but I hate the $15/mo or whatever for the "privilege" of being able to time-shift their content...

     

    Tivio's business model is completely broken, since the cable companies subsidize their own PVR boxes. Apple requires healthy profit margins on all their hardware, so how is this going to fly? Besides, I'm sure Apple has no desire to be a middle man, since their M.O. has been to deal directly with content providers. Apple going through the cable companies to provide content, as well as requiring their customers to have cable subscriptions, make absolutely no sense. Where's the value proposition for Apple?
  • Reply 14 of 79
    diddydiddy Posts: 282member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by aross99 View Post


    Cord cutting is dead in the water for a lot of us, as long as the cable companies can pressure content providers not to release content online.



    Or they own the content outright.  Comcast owns NBC for example.

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    Quote:


    Replacing the Cable Box with an Apple TV Styled "Tivo" is a good interim step.  ANYTHING would be better than the cable boxes.  And keeping it out of the TV means you don't have to worry about all of the negatives of an Apple branded Television.



     


     


    Except you still have to deal with people who cannot get cable or do not want it (satellite users, FiOS) and people in other countries. There just isn't any standards


     


    Quote:


    The up front cost isn't an issue for me, but I hate the $15/mo or whatever for the "privilege" of being able to time-shift their content...



    There is going to be a cost no matter what.  Even Tivo costs money month to month.



    #next_pages_container { width: 5px; hight: 5px; position: absolute; top: -100px; left: -100px; z-index: 2147483647 !important; }

     


    ETA:  As pointed out above Cable DVR's are heavally subsidized.  You might not mind the upfront costs but tons of people do care which is why there really isn't a third party dvr service.


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  • Reply 15 of 79


    I still do not believe that the Apple TV as we know it is Apple's answer to mainstream television. Given their recent focus on display technology in their iDevices, I expect that they will still want to transfer this experience to TV viewers.


     


    The "Apple TV" hobby is nothing more a Trojan Horse to pave the way for a full blown iTV with Apps, Siri, etc. Apple's plan is to quell the fears of the cable companies by showing them that their Apple TV is not a threat. Then they will organize and make deals for the Apple TV (as seen here) and then later introduce a wow iTV product and port the programming to the new device. 

  • Reply 16 of 79
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    javacowboy wrote: »
    Tivio's business model is completely broken, since the cable companies subsidize their own PVR boxes. Apple requires healthy profit margins on all their hardware, so how is this going to fly? Besides, I'm sure Apple has no desire to be a middle man, since their M.O. has been to deal directly with content providers. Apple going through the cable companies to provide content, as well as requiring their customers to have cable subscriptions, make absolutely no sense. Where's the value proposition for Apple?
    We can't go a month (or less) without Apple TV rumors. I think most of it is BS fueled by Wall Streets expectation that Apple bring to market another revolutionary device. And in their minds that device will have something to do with TV. Sorry but I just can't see cable companies getting into bed with Apple.
  • Reply 17 of 79
    Since when is $10 to $15 for each cable box a nominal fee? I have 4 cable boxes that over $40 a month in box fees! Should have used the word EXCESSIVE instead of NOMINAL!
  • Reply 18 of 79
    Apple is known to set industry standards, for example iTunes. I think what Apple has plans to do is change the entire cable industry by doing something similar to what is done with the iPhone and iPad, by creating the hardware with features installed in them and having each individual company sell them with a plan. Cable companies would be like wireless carriers, a monthly fee would be charged just as they do now but, instead of a cable box, the customer would purchase an entire tv, in this case an Apple retina television. It is done in the wireless industry, why not the cable industry? A customer could as well buy an Apple tv at major retailers just as they would if they were in the market for a television today. Major retailers offer the ability to purchase Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint phones and plans, like an iPhone or iPad. It would benefit cable providers greatly, expanding their market from being solely sold by them, to selling their services in a larger commercial market, the retail store. Cable boxes are unasthetically pleasing to the eye as well, wires hang down from a tv or are hidden. If the cable box is included in the television, only one remote, an Apple device could be used as well to replace the one provided by the cable provider. Apple TV is considered only a hobby, a full fledged retina quality television with cable incorporated into it would be EXACTLY what Apple is known to do, think different.
  • Reply 19 of 79
    al_bundyal_bundy Posts: 1,525member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



    I have to say, ever since I came to the States, 22 years ago, the story of how the cable companies hijacked the network's content and made money rebroadcasting it with their own ads and stayed out of prison has fascinated me. If Apple can work directly with the actual content providers it might be sweet revenge.


    the content providers are the enemy. the cable companies are just low margin middlemen.


     


    the content companies like disney make the cable companies buy whole groups of channels and tell them which service tier to carry them on

  • Reply 20 of 79

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



    I have to say, ever since I came to the States, 22 years ago, the story of how the cable companies hijacked the network's content and made money rebroadcasting it with their own ads and stayed out of prison has fascinated me. If Apple can work directly with the actual content providers it might be sweet revenge.


    Well said....I don't mind watching ads if the TV is free...I do mind having to pay $60/mo (cable) and also watching ads. I mind it a lot.


     


    I cut the cord 4 years ago....but I do miss F1, Tennis, etc.


     


    I wish Apple would just buy a SatTV company and Sprint and be done once and for all with cable and cell companies.


     


    Who wouldn't pay Apple $99/mo to have an iPhone with unlimited everything and TV? The sooner the better.

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