By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
August 25, 2010

Rather than a “best of TV” subscription service, Apple will be streaming programs a la carte

[UPDATE: The event is actually scheduled for Sept. 1. See here.]

Fuzzy rumors about Steve Jobs’ next move in the TV market have been swirling for the better part of a year, but the picture snapped into focus on Tuesday.

A report by Peter Burrows, a veteran BusinessWeek reporter now writing for Bloomberg Businessweek, lays out the details of what sounds like a credible scenario. According to Burrows:

  • Apple (AAPL) is set to begin a new service that would let iPad, iPhone and iPod owners rent current TV programs for 48 hours at 99-cents apiece. Currently movies can be rented from iTunes, but TV shows must be purchased for $1.99 to $2.99 each.
  • Apple is said to be in “advanced talks” with News Corp. (NWS) and “talks” with CBS (CBS) and Disney (DIS) to get access to their content. [According to the Wall Street Journal, Disney is “close to an agreement.”] That would cover three of the four major networks (Fox, CBS and ABC). Time Warner (TWX) might also make its older programs available. General Electric’s (GE) NBC, which is in the process of being acquired by Comcast (CMSCA), was conspicuously absent from the Bloomberg report.
  • Apple is also planning to unveil a $99 version of its three-year-old Apple TV set-top box. Earlier reports suggested that the new device would run the same operating system as the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch and be optimized for streaming, rather than downloading, video content.
  • This is all supposed to happen at a special event on Sept. 7, at which time Steve Jobs will also unveil a new version of the iPod touch with a higher-resolution screen.

Jobs has apparently abandoned his efforts to convince the TV networks to let him repackage their programming into a $30-per-month “best of TV” subscription service. Such a service would have jeopardized the networks’ chances of getting higher retransmission fees from TV-system operators, according to RBC Capital’s David Bank, the only source named in Burrows’ piece.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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