This Move Says Apple Is Serious About a Cable TV-Style Service

Apple Inc. To Unveil iPhone 6S And Apple TV
Tim Cook, chief executive officer of Apple Inc., speaks during an Apple product announcement in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. Apple Inc. introduced a larger iPad with a 12.9-inch screen, designed to attract business users and jump-start demand for its tablets. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

There have been rumors for some time about Apple offering a Netflix-style streaming TV service to users through its Apple TV box. Nothing has ever come of them but there are signs the company is getting more serious about the idea.

Here’s a big one: Apple (AAPL) just hired veteran Time Warner Cable executive Peter Stern and made him a vice president in its cloud services unit. He will report to Eddy Cue, who is in charge of services like Apple Music and iCloud.

Why is Stern’s hiring such a big clue that Apple is moving forward with its cable TV plans? Because when he worked at Time Warner, he was a key player in negotiations with Apple about a deal to offer streaming TV.

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Those talks have never come to fruition, for a variety of reasons—among them, the fact that Apple doesn’t want to pay as much for the content as TV networks and other providers want them to pay.

In a sense, cable companies like Time Warner and Comcast and content producers like CBS are caught between a rock and a hard place. They know that streaming is the future and cord-cutting is a reality, so they want to partner with companies like Apple, but they are also leery of giving away their content too cheaply.

Whether Stern’s arrival at Apple makes it any more likely they will succeed is an open question. But they are far more likely to do so with him than without him.

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