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Apple Is Talking to TV Programmers About Its Own Web TV Service

Dish and Sony are already doing "over the top" Web TV service. Apple may want to do its own.

Asa Mathat
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Apple has spent years circling the TV business, without ever really getting into the TV business. Now it may be ready to try again.

Industry executives say Apple is in talks with TV programmers about deals that would allow Apple to offer an “over the top” pay-TV service, like the one Dish has started selling with its Sling TV product, and the one Sony is getting ready to launch.

The theory is that Apple would put together bundles of programming — but not the entire TV lineup that pay-TV providers generally offer — and sell it directly to consumers, over the Web. That means Apple wouldn’t be reinventing the way TV works today, but offering its own version of it, with its own interface and user experience.

Apple has shown programmers demos of the proposed service, sources say. But talks seem to be in the early stages, which means terms like pricing and timing aren’t close to being ironed out. Several programmers say they’ve yet to start talks with Apple at all.

An Apple rep declined to comment.

Apple has made repeated attempts to crack the TV business. In 2009, it proposed a $30-a-month subscription service, and since then the company has periodically tried different strategies. Apple’s most recent plan had been to work with pay-TV providers like Time Warner Cable to provide a hardware/software offering to those company’s customers.

But now it appears that Apple has decided to try TV without the help of the TV pipe owners, and work with the TV content owners instead.

One difference between earlier efforts and the current chats: After years of failed efforts to deliver TV over the Web, both Dish and Sony have reached agreements with programmers to deliver both live, “linear” TV as well as video-on-demand, just like cable-TV providers offer. So now there’s a model for this stuff.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has told anyone who asks that the company wants to figure out how to crack TV; at the Code conference last May, Apple media boss Eddy Cue told Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher that “the TV experience sucks.

So far Apple’s only venture into TV has been via its Apple TV box, which makes it easier for users to gets Web TV on their conventional TV. But with a couple of exceptions, Apple doesn’t sell the programming that’s on the Apple TV box. Now it looks like it may want to step into that role.

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