Apple is in the early stages of talks with Comcast to offer a TV-streaming service via an Apple set-top box, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The deal Apple wants would give the company a cut of cable subscription fees and special treatment on Comcast’s network. Those are pretty heavy demands for Apple to make, and the WSJ says that the two companies “aren’t close to an agreement.”
While these talks may still be in their early stages, Apple has been quietly working on this streaming service idea for some time — Business Insider first covered rumours of a cable TV streaming partnership way back in August 2012.
Since starting those talks, Apple has been hiring a number of cable industry insiders to help with both the technical and business aspects of such a deal.
Last year alone, the company made several key hires that run the gamut from getting a better connection between Apple and cable customers to getting the rights to show the content that would make people opt for an Apple TV-based set-top box:
Pete Distad from Hulu will help get the rights to content people want to see.
Last August, Apple hired Pete Distad (pictured above) to serve as VP of Product Marketing. Distad previously served as Senior Vice President of Marketing and Distribution at Hulu, where one of his responsibilities was negotiating the content deals vital to keeping the service attractive to advertisers and pay subscribers.
Last summer, Bloomberg reported that Distad would lead such negotiations at Apple; according to yesterday’s report from the Wall Street Journal, the deal being discussed between Apple and Comcast would still require Apple to acquire “significant TV programming rights,” making Distad a vital player in bringing such a deal to fruition.
Two cable industry vets have the insider know-how to negotiate the deal and work with Comcast’s tech.
In September, Apple hired two cable industry insiders with direct ties to Comcast: Lauren ‘Ren’ Provo from Comcast and Jean-Francois Mule from CableLabs, a non-profit research and development lab funded by the major cable operators and whose board of directors consists of CEOs from cable companies.
Lauren Provo served as principal analyst of interconnect relations at Comcast, and held a similar position at AT&T before that. In plain English, that means she was on the team responsible for determining whether it would be worth it for Comcast to pay to hook up to third-party servers (or install third-party servers at Comcast’s data centres). When the WSJ says Apple really wants to get “special treatment” on Comcast’s network, what they likely mean is that Apple wants to put its servers for delivering content from the cloud as close to Comcast subscribers as possible — the kind of deal Provo would know how to sell better than anyone.