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How Apple Could Use Time Warner Buy To Finally Get Its Elusive "Skinny" Channel Bundle

Apple has struggled to license a small package of video channels to offer as a complement to its Apple TV streaming device.

[Photo: Flickr user Danny Choo]

If Apple were to buy Time Warner Inc., which a new report suggests is in play, the tech giant could finally get access to the video content that it has long wanted to offer as a complement to its Apple TV streaming device.

Time Warner has been performing poorly and is under pressure from investors to sell itself off. One of the potential suitors is Apple, reports the New York Post.

Apple's content chief Eddie Cue has been watching the Time Warner situation carefully, the report says, citing unnamed sources familiar with the situation.

Time Warner shares closed at $71.06 on Tuesday, the Post points out, far below the company's $85 share price when 21st Century Fox made a (failed) offer to buy Time Warner a year and a half ago. Fox may still be interested.

Apple has for years conducted negotiations with large video content owners (think Viacom, CBS, the NFL) trying to win favorable licensing terms for content that would make up a "skinny" bundle for Apple TV. But video content owners, as any cable operator can attest, are very tough negotiators and are extremely sensitive about digital distribution and privacy risk, and Apple has so far failed to make a deal on its own.

A Time Warner acquisition could give Apple access to content such as HBO, CNN news, and Warner Brothers, among many others—provided that the Time Warner licensing agreements, and their terms, would be transferable to Time Warner's new owner.

Apple already partnered with HBO to launch that network's streaming-only service, HBO Now, which offered people with no cable subscription a way to get their Game of Thrones fix. HBO Now is available with $15 subscription service on Apple TV.

Apple launched a new, more robust version of its Apple TV box last year, but many were disappointed that it didn't include the channel bundle.

Reinventing the living-room experience with a new video device and content ecosystem was said to be one of Steve Jobs's last great ambitions.