In recent negotiations, the main stumbling blocks with cable companies have included a tussle for control over the software that determines the screen interface — the look and feel of the viewer’s experience, said people familiar with the discussions. That’s also what TiVo Inc. (TIVO) has been offering for more than a decade with its hard drive-equipped set-top box that allows viewers to easily record broadcasts and, more recently, stream Internet fare. TiVo’s growth, though, has been stymied by fierce resistance from cable TV providers.
Another source of disagreement between Apple and the cable operators, according to Bloomberg, is the decision to sell the Apple set-top box directly to customers or lease it through the cable operators themselves. The report continued by noting recent negotiations have included talks related to providing Apple TV users with access to live broadcasts under a paid cable subscription:
In some of its most recent negotiations, Apple has focused on cable companies that would give it access to live broadcasting without needing new content agreements. Under such a deal, Apple would release a new product for customers to access their set of channels, paid with a cable subscription, instead of leasing a set-top box from pay-TV operators for a monthly fee, a person familiar with the discussions said. Apple may also lease the boxes through cable companies, another person said. The box would be Internet-connected, similar to Comcast’s new X1 interface, which is available in Boston, Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia, the person said.
These reports contradict several analysts who recently noted to clients that they were expecting Apple to introduce a full-blown HDTV by the holidays. Recent reports from Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal often mention the possibility of an Apple-branded HDTV, but at this point the focus for negotiations with cable companies appears to be related to a version of the existing Apple TV set-top box form factor. A report from last month by Jefferies analyst Peter Misek claimed Apple would introduce new set-top boxes, in addition to a premium Apple HDTV product, that would provide users the choice between using existing televisions or an Apple-branded television set. Other analysts, such as Piper Jaffray resident and Apple analyst Gene Munster, have said several times to expect an Apple HDTV by the end of the year.