Apple Pushes Ahead with TV Box Amid Tough Talks with Cable Cos.

Apple CEO Tim Cook. Source: Reuters
Apple CEO Tim Cook. Source: Reuters

The years-long dance between Apple and cable operators marches on, as Comcast and Apple continue to discuss enabling the cable company's subscribers to watch TV through an Apple set-top box instead of a Comcast one, people familiar with the talks said.

While no deal has been reached, teams at Apple’s Cupertino, Calif. headquarters are working full-steam on the new device that would fully replace a customer’s cable box. It has a dramatically overhauled interface and a big emphasis on gaming, the people said. 

Apple and Comcast have been talking for more than a year about such a partnership, and it’s far from clear they will reach a deal. But recent talks, which the Wall Street Journal also reported on Sunday night, have encouraged at least some Apple employees, who have been pitching the box to cable operators to little avail for years. Some of these people believe that Apple could start selling the new set-top box later this year.

The new box under development would blend live TV listings with apps and Web video, with a big focus on gaming, these people said. One person involved with the Apple product says the company hopes to attract more iPhone and iPad game developers to make their games work with the new box so that people can play them on their TV screen, using iPhones and iPads as controllers. Some games already are available that way through the current Apple TV box.  

Apple’s also banking on drawing customers with a new interface. The new box replaces the traditional channel guide with on demand menus, and Apple has been seeking deals to allow people to watch virtually all their content on-demand. The device under development is likely to integrate with iPhones and iPads and Siri, Apple’s voice-activated assistant.

Unlike the existing $99 Apple TV, the new box would serve as a full replacement for a cable box, offering cable content as well as iTunes and other Web video. Apple has also been working to release an updated version of the $99 box, which supports a growing number of video apps, including apps from Disney and HBO.

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The Cupertino, Calif. company has taken many cracks at wooing cable and media companies before, including pitching programmers on technology that would compensate them for skipped ads. The proposal didn’t get much traction with media companies, people familiar with the talks have said. 


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The Apple-Comcast talks illustrate how competitive the television market is right now, with multiple technology companies looking to break in and cable companies cautiously entertaining them.

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