The Financial Times is reporting that Apple considered a buyout of Time Warner late last year, with Apple executive Eddy Cue raising the idea at a meeting with Time Warner’s head of corporate strategy, Olaf Olafsson. The idea of bid was very much tentative and did not enter serious negotiations involving Tim Cook, according to the report. However, Apple is still interested in acquiring media company talent and sources indicate the company is ramping spending on original content: “several hundred million dollars a year”.
Apple has long been rumored to want to launch a skinny cable subscription service for internet television, in concert with its Apple TV set top box. At Startup Fest earlier in the week, Tim Cook said he wants Apple to be a catalyst in the entertainment business.
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If the deal had been proffered, it would have been Apple’s largest acquisition to date, far beyond the record $3 billion the company spent on acquiring Beats in 2014. Time Warner, which owns HBO and CNN, is valued at around $60 billion on the stock market. Any acquisition would have been at a higher valuation still, cutting a significant chunk out of Apple’s $233 billion cash pile.
News of the potential deal will please investors who are looking for Apple to expand into other areas for revenue growth, as iPhone sales growth tails off. Rumors about Apple’s streaming TV service have not surfaced in a while so the status of the project is unclear. Apple was planning to launch a skinny bundle of streaming TV channels for around $20-$30 a month — plans stalled as Apple failed to make deals with the content networks.
Apple is apparently still interested in a purchase of a media company but a buyout of a major content owner risks alienating itself from other partnerships. Apart from Time Warner, other leading media companies like Comcast and CBS are not good targets for takeovers as share structures mean the companies are controlled by the founders’ families. Still, spending ‘hundreds of millions’ a year on original content shows Apple is serious about entering into television media.
There have been many rumors this year of Apple funding original content ventures, perhaps offering them to Apple TV owners through an ‘Exclusives’ app. It is also keen to develop some exclusive series as exclusive content for Apple Music subscribers. The notion of Apple’s interest in Time Warner was corroborated by the New York Post earlier in the year.