Both CBS and Walt Disney are talking with Apple about a plan to offer television subscriptions over the Internet and possibly on set tops as well. According to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is pushing to complete these licensing deals so they can launch Apple TV in 2010. ABC (being part of the Walt Disney Co) may be interested too.
Up to now, television online has been only a pipe dream with services like Hulu, YouTube, and others being the only way to get television shows (and then only ad hoc) on your computer. Some networks have streaming TV through their websites and most networks now have dedicated Internet-only shows as well.
According to the New York Times, this deal could potentially destabilize the television business, which relies on cable subscriptions to bundled channels. With Disney already selling individual shows through iTunes and with Apple’s Steve Jobs being on their Board of Directors, it’s not surprising they’re interested.
Of course, the obvious question is whether people will pay for something that they (sort of) already get free. Another question is whether America’s households are willing to pay more for Internet in order to get free TV. After all, most homes receive their high speed Internet via cable, which usually comes from the same cable company they’re getting their television from. Most of those are in bundles and if you subtract the TV from the bundle, the ‘Net access costs more. It’s a valid question.
In the end, it will likely be some years before Apple would be able to offer services to rival what most cable companies are already offering. But with the Apple TV device in the offing and the strong iTunes service, it may be possible. It’s possible that the shakeup Jobs and Co were able to make in the music industry may be done to the cable networks as well. TV may not be the same.