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Rumor: Apple Wants to Route Your TV Shows Through iTunes

Apple rumors swirl practically every week, but there's rarely one that's as potentially game-changing as this one: According to insiders, the company's aiming to cut out the cable TV middle man, and serve up network TV to as many as 65 million users via iTunes.

apple on tv

The news has surfaced over at AllThingsD. According to the site's sources, Apple's been courting the TV networks directly, mentioning a $30 iTunes TV subscription service. As if that weren't intriguing enough, Apple's aiming to have the service live next year some time, which is seriously soon.

This does tally with long-standing rumors we've heard about Apple's subscription plans for iTunes—though these are usually connected to music tracks—as well as numerous rumors about Apple's televisual intentions. It also parallels the current trend towards television over the Internet, via services like Hulu (or ISPs, like Portugal's Meo and Zon suppliers). In fact, it's the logical extension of moves Apple's been making with the Apple TV hardware and iTunes.

But there's going to be one big roadblock in Apple's way: The cable companies. They're fiercely defending their current role as the channel for delivering TV to your home, because there're billions of dollars of revenue involved. Looking at the vile way Time Warner Cable is maneuvering to squeeze out a local ISP in North Carolina to protect its income, factoring in the complications of advertising revenues, and rumors that Apple's not signed up any particular network yet, this might look like an impossible task.

Or is it? Apple's turned the music business inside out and upside down and currently enjoys the position of number one music retailer in the U.S.—an odd situation for a computer company, if you think about it. And Apple's choice to use iTunes as the vehicle for the TV content is likely to be very important—it means the videos aren't tied to a particular product, and could be delivered by any Mac, by Apple TV and possibly even through the iPhone. If Apple's tablet surfaces next year, then it might actually turn into the ultimate device for TV-watching around the home—and maybe even while roaming over a wireless network. There're also some cold, hard statistics that tend to support Apple: It has 65 million iTunes users. Whereas Hulu, arguably the most successful existing Internet TV system, has 40 million, and Netflix has about 11 million. Comcast has 24 million users.

All of these facts will be a significant draw for the networks, and if just one of them signed up with Apple, the rest could follow suit. As noted at AllThingsD, that first one could well be Disney—it's got close ties with Apple, it's bought in to Apple's iPhone plans, and it has sold programs via iTunes already.

[Via AllThingsD]

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  • Paul Dylan

    I think if there is anyone that can compete with Google in search it HAS TO BE Apple. All Apple products seem to hit the spot for the most people and they know technology almost better than anyone at this point in terms of innovation.

    Paul Dylan
    Shopping Cart Software

  • Thompson Terry

    The potential of this service is intriguing. I wonder when/if The Man In The Black Turtleneck will get into the ISP business, then I could get a complete solution from a single provider. Oh, hold on, I'm still waiting for any kind of broadband (other than satellite) connectivity. There are plenty of us who live beyond the web of high speed access and still use dial up. Every few months I check with TimeWarner to see when (or if) they'll connect me and I keep getting responses of "no problem. 3-6 months" but after seven years of waiting, I long ago stopped holding my breath, though I salivate at the thought of the T1 line not 4 miles from my home. I can almost smell it...

  • Clive Richards

    They'd need a big server farm to support this ... oh! Is that what's going on in North Carolina?

  • Kit Eaton

    @Mark. Yup--have to agree with you on the iTablet point, which really could transform this service.
    @Richard. Angeline Jolie in a turtleneck... well, that'd spice up the next Apple keynote!

  • Richard Geller

    This makes perfect sense if Apple can pull it off. After all, wasn't it Steve Jobs who said, "digital hub, yeah baby!" Or Mike Myers impersonating him... or Angelina Jolie in a black turtleneck... I get so confused.
    Richard Geller

  • Mark Sigal

    If the goal was to pick off the dollars that customers currently allocated towards pay-channels; namely, HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc. it might work if for no other reason than when Tablet comes out you could have a TV anywhere offering to view same content on iPhone, Tablet, Desktop and Apple TV for one price.

    I do agree with others, though, that it sets up somewhat of an ALL-or-NONE as to whether same price includes Movies/TV and Music.

    Some fodder on this one in my post:

    Apple, TV and the Smart, Connected Living Room

    Check it out, if interested.