Rumors Apple will launch a new TV-connected device/service seemingly never die, and now the Wall Street Journal reports it's in talks with Comcast (and that rumored discussions with Time Warner Cable over a "Project Jupiter" team-up stalled when TWC became a takeover target). With interesting timing, the rumors focus on an aspect of the deal that would give Apple's device(s) streaming of live TV and cloud DVR recordings over a "managed connection" avoiding last-mile bottlenecks. That's similar to how Comcast sends video on-demand to its Xbox 360 app, and a contrast to the recent net neutrality discussions arising over its deal with Netflix. Noting that the companies "aren't close to an agreement," the rumors suggest an arrangement where Apple sells its hardware at retail TiVo-style, although how customers log in and who controls that relationship is something where the two continue to differ.
As the article notes, this proposal is similar to Comcast's arrangement with TiVo -- in some areas the retail DVRs can access Comcast VOD -- but going in with Apple to create any kind of hybrid service would be a major change in strategy. So far, Comcast has pushed its X1 platform with live TV, internet features and eventually cloud DVR streaming to multiple devices, tested a full IPTV service on college campuses, launched a live streaming app on Android/iOS and is even selling (as opposed to just renting) movies for viewing on multiple platforms.
Despite years of rumored negotiations and device testing we still haven't seen Apple jump out with a product to modernize/revolutionize the existing TV experience. Now, we wonder if pressure from regulators on the proposed Time Warner Cable / Comcast merger, cord-cutting (the number of customers paying for cable, satellite and fiber TV dropped slightly last year, the first time that's happened), and competing internet TV services (Netflix, Sony, Amazon etc.) is creating a new reason for cooperation. If any of those are true, the next steps are figuring out how the two sides will split the money coming in, if the studios and networks that supply content will play ball, and if Reed Hastings will fire off another angry open letter (following up his net neutrality-related posts on Comcast's Xbox 360 video on-demand and peering). The WSJ reported Apple had shifted its focus to potentially working with cable providers back in 2012, and despite what's happened in the industry since then, we're still not holding our breath waiting on this one.