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Apple is getting closer and closer to spelling out its TV strategy

Tim Cook won’t come out and explain Apple’s plan to take on Big TV. But he’s almost there.

Apple CEO Tim Cook onstage in front of a TV icon. Stephen Lam / Getty Images
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.

One terrible way to find out what Apple is planning on doing is to ask an Apple executive about Apple’s plans in public, before Apple is ready to make an Official Apple Announcement.

People keep trying anyway. Today it was analyst Shannon Cross of Cross Research, asking Apple CEO Tim Cook about Apple’s TV plans.

Spoiler: He didn’t tell her what Apple plans to do.

But! It is worth noting what Cook did say, because his words, coupled with what we know about Apple’s actions to date, do give you a pretty good sense of Apple’s TV plans.

Let’s go to the tape, courtesy of FactSet:

Shannon Cross: Tim, can you talk a bit about video? You’ve signed a myriad of deals. There was an announcement about the TV App directly on Samsung so perhaps when this comes out you’ll be a multi-platform. I’m just curious how you view the opportunity in video, and I guess assuming you can just leverage the costs that you’ve made already, it should be accretive to margin I would think.

Cook: Shannon, we see huge changes in customer behavior taking place now and we think that it will accelerate as the year goes by to sort of the breakdown of the cable bundle that’s been talked about for years, and I think that it’ll likely take place at a much faster pace this year.

And so we’re going to participate in that in a variety of ways. One of those is through Apple TV and you’re well familiar with that product. The second way is AirPlay 2 which we have as you just pointed out, we have support on a number of different third-party TVs and we’re excited about that. It makes the experience in the living room with the people using our products even better. We think that people are really going to like that.

Another way is of course all the third-party video subscriptions that are on the store. We’re participating in this today, and I would guess that that’s going to accelerate into the future as the bundle breaks down and people begin to buy likely multiple services in place of their current cable bundle.

And then finally, original content. We will participate in the original content world. We have signed a multiyear partnership with Oprah. But today, I’m not ready to extend that conversation beyond that point. We’ve hired some great people that I have a super amount of confidence in and they’re working really hard and we’ll have something to say more on that later.

Got all of that? At first glance, this reads like standard Apple wheel-spinning in lieu of an announcement. And Cook has said some of this before: Apple has been arguing for years that the conventional TV industry was in decline and that consumers would tire of paying for the bundles of channels sold by traditional pay TV distributors like Comcast and Charter.

But here’s a shorter version of the important stuff:

Again: Apple has either said some of this before, out loud, or hasn’t protested when people have reported it.

But put it all in one place, speed it up, and what you get is: “We are going to sell a bundle of other people’s TV shows and movies, and add our own, and make sure you can watch it anywhere you want.”

What we still don’t know: When Apple is going to launch all of this (but it should be this spring), how much they’re going to charge for it, and whether it will be its own product or designed to be part of a much bigger subscription service (maybe it will come with Apple Music! Or an Apple News service! Or something else! Etc.).

Apple has been doing a lot of this in plain sight for some time now — in part, presumably, because it is telling investors that it has a new revenue-generating service up its sleeve, and services are now the key to Apple’s Wall Street story. But I haven’t seen/heard Cook come this close to a full reveal before. We’re getting close.

This article originally appeared on

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