Thoughts on Apple TV and Cable

There have been several reports over the last few days that Apple has been in talks with cable providers to provide live television via an upgraded (or new) Apple TV. I was skeptical at first. Would Apple really want to deal with the mess that is cable cards? Or the hassle of getting the cable providers on board with integration? Especially as more and more people are quitting cable.

Then I remembered the Steve Jobs quote in Walter Isaacson’s book regarding Apple TV: “I finally cracked it.” Obviously, Steve had an “ah ha” moment. What if that idea was this:

Integrate Apple TV with cable provider existing streaming services. Time Warner and Comcast each have an iPad app that allows you to watch live TV. You just have to convince the providers to offer a streaming only plan*.

Cable companies would be happy because they could continue to control access to live entertainment. They could even continue to bundle their services, making more money than they can just offering internet. They even get the side benefit of no longer having to support their horrendous technology.

Apple would be happy because it could control the user experience, and serve as the sole solution to the living room problem. Essentially, the cable company becomes an app next to Hulu and Netflix. And, it would allow Apple to focus on the technology rather than on getting and maintaining content deals for iTunes, which have proved difficult in some cases.

* I realize this is harder said than done. They have their own deals with content providers that my preclude this. But the cable companies would have a much easier time negotiating streaming access with providers than Apple does. The cable companies have far more leverage.