Apple In Talks About OTT-TV Service: Report

Sparking yet another round of rumors about Apple’s pay-TV ambitions, the maker of the popular iPhone and iPad and the still-viable Apple TV box  is in licensing talks with programmers toward the development of an over-the-top subscription TV service outfitted with an Apple-crafted user interface, Re/code reported Wednesday, citing unnamed industry executives.

According to the report, Apple is exploring deals that will clear the way for an OTT service that would offer “bundles of programming – but not the entire TV lineup that pay TV providers generally offer  and sell it directly to consumers, over the Web.”

Word of Apple’s latest interest comes as distribution rights continue to loosen up, enabling new forms of so-called “virtual” MVPDs.

If Apple is successful, those deals, Re/code said, would enable it to follow in the footsteps of Sling TV, the slimmed-down OTT service from Dish Network that starts at $20 per month (read our review), or the fuller-freight PlayStation Vue offering from Sony that will also support a cloud DVR.

Re/code said Apple has demoed the proposed service to some programmers, but warned that distribution talks are in the “early stages,” and that pricing and when the service might launch are still part of the big unknown.

Rumors about Apple’s interest in developing a pay-TV service (or even an Apple TV set) have circulated for years.

Last March, industry sources confirmed reports (subscription required) that Apple and Comcast had been talking for at least two years about a deal that would enable an Apple-powered device to offer a mix of live TV and other subscription video services in partnership with the MSO. 

At the time, The Wall Street Journal said Apple was seeking a deal that allow it to provide its own interface and offer video services over managed IP connections that did not mingle with “best effort” broadband service traffic, and get a cut of the subscription fees. But those talks didn’t get very far, with one industry source saying that “Apple just wants too much.”

Comcast, meanwhile, has been pushing hard with X1, a next-gen video product equipped with a cloud-based interface and an in-home video streaming capability that is delivered over its managed IP distribution network.

According to Re/code, Apple’s now interested in developing a service that can ride on unmanaged broadband links.