Apple Reportedly Shops iTunes as TV Service

| News

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.


Bryan Chaffin

This a super interesting rumor to me. iTunes is a great platform for Apple to compete with the cable companies, and it would make Apple TV even more compelling (as an easy way to watch this service in the living room).

I wonder, though, if Apple would ever subsidize the Apple TV the way cable companies subsidize their boxes. I strongly doubt it, and that would leave iTunes aimed primarily at those looking to use their computers as their primary content delivery device.

John Martellaro

The networks can hardly ever resist a money making proposition—except when it steps on the toes of bigger money making operations. By the way, Comcast is on the verge of buying a 51% stake in NBC/Universal. It’s enough to give anyone a headache, sorting out all the players and vested interests.

Lee Dronick

When I had digital cable there was some channels that I really liked. Ovation an art orientated channel, Sundance and other indie movie channels. I also miss HBO original programming. Otherwise the primetime stuff on the networks is not a big interest of mine. Of course other people’s viewing taste varies and that is okay.


Uh… So the rumour is that Apple’s iTunes is going around to the major networks trying to get them to sell their TV shows through iTunes….?

Yeah, they’ve been doing that for years already, so this is what’s referred to as “Old and Busted.”

Where’s my “New Hotness?”


By the way, Comcast is on the verge of buying a 51% stake in NBC/Universal.

Won’t that be scrutinized by the FTC?  Or is it a done deal?  I for one would certainly object to that takeover.

John Martellaro

Here’s a story on Comcast & NBC:


Can’t read the NYT piece, as it is login and I don’t feel like doing anything about it.

When the news first broke, and I have been following it as I can, of a possible Comcast buyout of NBC Universal there were two trains going. One train saying that it was happening, and Comcast saying it wasn’t.

Of course, there is no reason for Comcast to make it public until the acquisition is in the final stages and awaiting FTC/FCC approval much like Marvel/Disney did, but with the amount of money NBC is pulling in from shows on the USA Network I doubt they would be so ready to let NBC Universal go.

USA Network steadily has the highest rated non-premier cable shows around. Would be odd to sell that all off to Comcast, seeing as how GE’s Peacock Network is sucking so much wind they have their own vortex.


This might explain why there has been no immediate response to Netflix et. al. I’ll take it a step further and say that I prefer individual show to specific channels in a cable package; if it were a true iTunes experience with no advertising for thirty bucks a month they can count me in! I know things tend to get more complicated when the networks step in though. Hard to believe the NBC/Uni squabble ever happened at this point.

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account