Apple Said to Be in Talks With Cable Industry About Building a Set-Top Box

Deal Would Let Apple TV Device Show Live Network Shows

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Apple, the world's most valuable company, is in talks with at least one of the largest U.S. cable companies about building a set-top box that would carry live TV and other content, a person with knowledge of the discussions said.

Consumers would be able to purchase the device instead of paying a monthly leasing fee to cable companies, said the person, who requested anonymity because the talks are private.

Tom Neumayr, a spokesman for Apple, declined to comment. The discussions were reported Wednesday night by the Wall Street Journal.

Apple would like to expand its TV offerings beyond the current Apple TV device.
Apple would like to expand its TV offerings beyond the current Apple TV device.

A deal would mark the iPhone maker's biggest foray into TV after years of calling it a "hobby." The company's $99 Apple TV product doesn't carry live network broadcasting and is mainly used for downloading movies and TV shows from the iTunes media store or streaming content from such services as Netflix and Google's YouTube.

By partnering with cable companies, Apple would get access to myriad channels now available to subscribers, instead of having to strike independent licensing deals with media companies and program owners after shows have aired.

Apple executives have long negotiated with media companies about ways to get more content for a TV product. Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN sports network has talked with Apple about giving subscribers online access to programming through Apple TV, executives said in May.

One challenge Apple has faced is that cable companies such as Comcast have invested heavily in developing a new user interface for their own set-top boxes that they lease to customers for a monthly fee.

Before his death last year, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson that he had "finally cracked" how to build a TV device.

"It will have the simplest user interface you could imagine," Mr. Jobs told Isaacson in the biography "Steve Jobs."

The comments fueled speculation about Apple's aspirations to reach customers in the living room. Gene Munster, an analyst for Piper Jaffray, has said that the company has built a prototype TV for release by next year.

Besides Eddy Cue, Apple's senior VP in charge of media partnerships, another executive leading Apple's TV effort is Jeff Robbin, who helped create the iPod and build the iTunes store, people familiar with the project said last year.

-- Bloomberg News --

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