rumours have been circulating since at least 2009 that Apple was going to launch a TV service with streaming content, and in August one analyst was predicting the deals were almost done.
More recently, it emerged that Steve Jobs told his biographer that he’d finally cracked the code on TV.
Today on an earnings call, CBS boss Les Moonves dropped a tantalising hint about Apple’s plans. And it looks like the company is trying to get content deals on the cheap.
Here’s the exchange, via Seeking Alpha:
John Janedis, UBS: Guys, just going back to streaming. I think for the most part, the deals you’ve written have been guaranteed or upfront payment. So I’m wondering, looking ahead, I think the newer players that are going to be out there are going to have a harder time aggregating to subscribers. So can you talk about your appetite for deals that are success-based or non-guaranteed?
Les Moonves: We — frankly, we don’t believe in them. We’re not going to go out and we’ve sort of — we’ve even been against joining Apple TV, which was an advertiser split. And these deals are significant in that we are getting guaranteed cash payment. We like operating on that basis. And as you said, we’ve been able to do deals worth hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on that basis. That is our position right now.
In other words CBS likes the up-front payments it gets from traditional cable providers. Apple was trying to get the same content by promising a share of ad revenues down the road.
As we’ve said before, the history of tech companies trying to revolutionise TV is littered with failure. the only way Apple is going to revolutionise TV is if it completely bypasses the cable companies. To do that, it’s going to have to pay for content — just like the cable providers do.
It certainly has the cash. Does it have the will?