Cook: 20 Million Apple TV Devices Sold

Apple has sold “about 20 million” Apple TV devices, company CEO Tim Cook said at the tail end of the company’s second quarter earnings call Wednesday when asked to weigh in on the day’s big news – that Amazon had struck an exclusive deal to offer older, library fare from HBO via its Amazon Prime service while also clearing the way to offer HBO Go on its new Fire TV device by year end.

“[W]e’ve got a pretty large installed base there,” Cook said of the new shipment mark, recalling that he “stripped off the hobby label” from the Apple TV after the product brought in more than $1 billion in 2013. “So, it didn’t feel right to me to refer to something that’s over $1 billion as a hobby.”

Cook didn’t spill the beans on an anticipated new generation of the Apple TV, but “from an investment point of view, we continue to make the product better and better.”

Cook seemingly shrugged off the HBO/Amazon deal, noting that Apple TV already offers the authenticated HBO Go service, which, according to today’s announcement, will continue to offer all the content that HBO is licensing to Amazon.

“I haven't had a chance to evaluate exactly what it is and don't have a personal point of view on that yet,” Cook said of the Amazon/HBO agreement. “But if I look broadly at the content on Apple TV, I think it compares extremely favorable to the content that is on the Amazon box.

For the quarter, Apple pulled a profit of $10.2 billion on sales of $45.6 billion, up 2% year-on-year.

Cook was also asked why Apple is more “hardware oriented” when compared to the more video content-focused strategies of Google and Amazon, and basically said to stay tuned.

“We currently feel comfortable in expanding the number of things we're working on,” Cook said. “We've been doing that in the background and we're not ready yet to pull the string on the curtain. But we've got some great things there. We're working on [projects] that I’m very proud of and very excited about.”

One of those might be the purported streaming video pact Apple has been pursuing with Comcast over the years.

Multiple industry sources have confirmed to Multichannel News (subscription required) that Apple and Comcast have explored a deal that would enable an Apple-powered device to offer a mix of live TV and other subscription video services in partnership with Comcast, but that the two sides have been discussing it for more than two years, and that Comcast has been unwilling to bend to Apple’s will.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Apple has been seeking a deal that would allow it to supply its own interface, offer services over a managed IP network that did not mingle with “best effort” broadband service traffic, and also take a cut of the subscription fees.

 “Those talks have never gone anywhere and probably never will,” an industry source who is familiar with those discussions said, noting that Apple had previously tried to squeeze revenues out of Comcast for its app for iOS-powered smartphones and tablets, but eventually gave up on that idea. “Apple just wants too much.”

Comcast is already well downstream with X1, its next-gen video interface, which covers not just the set-top box, but tablets, smartphones, and PCs, and eventually smart TVs and other types of IP-connected devices.