As Comcast’s attention moves toward acquiring Time Warner, Apple’s attention moves to Comcast. The nation’s biggest cable provider and the maker of Apple TV are in talks to create a service that would run on the set-top box with streaming independent of Comcast’s regular broadband internet services.
The deal would see Comcast provide an isolated portion of its “last mile” cable delivery that would be free of the effects of bandwidth congestion. Apple’s desire is to provide a streaming service that is of the same quality as Comcast’s television offerings — avoiding long buffering times and low-resolution video due to a strained network is key.
The commitment would require a substantial investment on Comcast’s end, including building out and optimizing network infrastructure and providing other backend technology. This remains a sticking point, along with other fine details including pricing and how revenues might be divided. Seemingly minor, Apple’s insistence on using a customer’s Apple ID to sign into the service could become a point of tension.
Net neutrality critics are sure to take interest in the deal, as it looks, at least on the surface, like a classic example of what advocates are hoping new regulations will help avoid. According to those close to the talks, however, Apple is not asking for its traffic to be prioritized, only that it gets its own “flow,” which sounds a lot like splitting hairs.
Apple has been making inroads with cable companies in recent months as it attempts to line up a subscription service in time for the launch of new Apple TV hardware later this year. The service would provide on-demand access to streaming television and movies along with a suite of other services typically available to Apple TV users. So far, talks seem to be progressing slowly. Word from inside the discussions is that a deal is not close.