Apple Reportedly Shops iTunes as TV Service

Apple has been shopping iTunes as a TV service to network executives, according to a report from Writing for the MediaMemo blog within AllThingsD, Peter Kafka said Apple is looking for networks to sign on to provide content to a monthly subscription service through iTunes that would effectively put the company in competition with cable and satellite TV companies.

According to the report, Apple is wanting to launch the service early in 2010, but doesn't know of any networks that have actually signed on to the idea. Mr. Kafka also noted that Apple has floated this idea in the past without much success, but quoted an unnamed exec who had been briefed on Apple's plans as saying, "I think they might get it right this time."

Apple has had a love-hate relationships so far with some networks in the course of offering TV shows for sale. In the love column is Disney, where Apple CEO Steve Jobs has a solid relationship with Disney CEO Robert Eiger. Disney was the first company to sell TV shows through iTunes, offering both Disney video and movies and ABC TV network programming.

In the love-hate column are networks like NBC. That network saw Steve Carrell's version of The Office become a hit after people watched it through iTunes purchases, but the company chaffed at Apple's controls over content-pricing and NBC eventually left iTunes. After working with News Corp and other TV networks to launch Hulu, however, NBC eventually returned to the iTunes fold.

Another important issue are the networks, including cable networks, and their relationships with cable firms like Comcast. Cable companies worry about their bread and butter revenues from cable TV subscriptions as many consumers switch their TV watching to various Internet-based sources, including iTunes, Hulu, channel Web sites, and pirated content.

The networks' own traditional models have been turned upside down by some of those very same forces, and Mr. Kafka opined that some networks may be loathe to anger companies like comcast by signing up with Apple and iTunes for a TV service.

If, however, Apple "might get it right this time," the company could see TV subscriptions be the next industry it disrupts. Between iTunes itself and its Apple TV settop box "hobby," the company is positioned well to make a go of it.