The on-again, off-again relationship between Apple and Comcast has hit a rough patch. The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple’s streaming TV service is finally close to becoming a reality, with a $30 to $40 monthly subscription service launching this fall that would give users access to 25 channels including ABC, CBS and Fox.
That notably does not include NBC, which is owned by Comcast. Almost exactly a year ago, the companies were reportedly in talks to include Comcast’s many channels in the Apple streaming service, and to arrange special high-speed access on Comcast’s broadband network—but the negotiations have apparently foundered.
“Apple came to believe that Comcast was stringing it along,” the Journal reported, citing anonymous sources, “while the cable giant focused on its own X1 Web-enabled set-top box.”
The massive US television industry is facing a major upheaval as more people forego cable and satellite pay-TV and opt instead for online services like Netflix. Several companies, including Dish Network and Sony, have launched or are planning cheaper “over the top” TV services that use the internet instead of cable or satellite to deliver TV content.
After trying to launch a TV service since at least 2009, Apple may not be willing to wait any longer for Comcast. It has already secured exclusive early access for Apple devices to the forthcoming HBO Now streaming service.
It’s not surprising that the Apple-Comcast relationship hit the wall. An Apple streaming TV service is a direct threat to Comcast’s flagship business—selling cable TV subscriptions—even as it is also a potential compliment to its content and broadband units.
Meanwhile, the special access deal that the companies were discussing a year ago may be complicated by US regulators’ new net neutrality rules—though Apple’s streaming service may be exempt. Apple was noticeably quiet during the net neutrality debate.
Apple was not immediately available for comment.