It turns out Apple really was trying to introduce a new monthly subscription service for network television programming, at least according to CBS Corp. During a company earnings call Thursday, CBS CEO Les Moonves revealed that his network declined to work with Apple on a television streaming deal.
The comments came when Moonves was asked whether CBS would be willing to partner with streaming services that did not guarantee upfront payments for CBS content. "Frankly, we don't believe in them," Moonves said. "We've even been against joining Apple TV, which was an advertiser split."
Moonves did not expand on his comments or explain what he meant by "joining Apple TV." He may have been referring to CBS' decision to opt out of Apple's year-long experiment with television episode rentals that ended in August. But Apple's television episode rental service was not ad supported, so Moonves' comments about an "advertiser split" suggest an entirely different plan.
Apple currently does not offer any streaming packages from ABC, CBS, Fox or NBC via Apple TV. To date, the only deal Apple has with the major networks, including CBS, is to sell single episodes and entire seasons through the iTunes Store.
What Was Moonves talking about?
The CBS chief's remarks appear to shed light on reports from late 2009 that claimed Apple was working on a subscription-based alternative to cable television packages. At the time, Apple's concept was believed to be a $30 monthly subscription service where you could watch an unlimited amount of content from the major network providers via iTunes.
So instead of watching broadcast television, you would stream only the shows you wanted to watch for a monthly flat fee. In late December 2009, The Wall Street Journal reported that CBS and Walt Disney Co. were thinking about signing on to the iTunes TV plan. Apple had hoped to launch the service in early 2010, but has yet to launch any type of television subscription service.
Reports about Apple's plans have been growing more frequent in recent weeks following the publication of Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. "[Apple's television set] will have the simplest user interface you could imagine," Jobs told Isaacson. "I finally cracked it." Apple is said to be working on a television set featuring Siri-like voice recognition capabilities that could ship as early as 2013, according to The New York Times.
Moonves' comments were first reported by GigaOm.