By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Time Warner Cable’s on again, off again sale drama is hitting the headlines again. This time it’s about getting rid of its live streaming business to bolster the bottom line. They can accomplish this either by either spinning off the division, or selling it outright, and the talk is that Apple is first among a number of suitors. Should the rumors prove to be true, then Apple will have a faster track to breathing new life into plans for their own streaming TV service.
Along with Cupertino, AT&T and Fox also look to be lining up to pick up the cable giant’s streaming assets, but Apple could really benefit after the news that they had put their own competing subscription service on ice due to problems with negotiating with content carriers. The main sticking issue has been one of how much would a service cost, with a range of about $30-40 a month being mentioned for a 25 channel streaming service. Ouch, at that price, one may as well keep their cable box.
This led Apple’s Content Deal Chief Eddie Cue to think that the future of Apple TV would be carrying apps much like they have with HBO Now, and getting a piece of their streaming pie for the trouble. But that limits users to mostly on demand options, with a few live streaming exceptions like sports broadcasts.
Currently, Apple TV owners can watch ABC News, CNNgo, Fox NOW, HBO NOW, MLB.TV Premium, NBC Sports Live Extra, PBS, PBS Kids, USA NOW, Watch ABC and WatchESPN, but usually they have to have a cable or satellite subscription to most of these channels to get access. This is something that cable cutters want to get rid of, and has led to the rise of Netflix, Amazon Prime, and others.
But if Apple can manage to pick up Time Warner’s streaming division, even at a premium, it would come with the capability to stream a bundle of live channels to their Apple products and do it for far less. This package would include main line Time Warner brands such as HBO, which Apple already enjoys as well as CNN, Turner Sports, and streaming of the Warner Brothers Movie and TV library.
How likely is it that Time Warner will sell? Well it depends on who you ask. Some believe that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes is under pressure to unload the cable giant, or at least some of it’s assets, or run the risk of an investor revolt. Bewkes has been known to resist spinning off any of Time Warner’s premium assets because of how it could damage the stock price.
“Splitting up can destroy value,” Bewkes is reported as saying in a recent investor meeting according to the NY Post, and he underscored this by citing Viacom, which hasn’t recovered in the decade since CES Sumner Redstone spun off CBS and Paramount. Currently, Time Warner stock is trading at around $71 a share, but could end up being worth $100 a share or more should Bewkes bow to investor demands to spin off the cable assets.
The pressure to make his board and investors happy will no doubt give those looking to buy a leg up. Apple needs to find a way in to the live streaming world and coming to Bewkes rescue could be just what the doctor ordered. One wrinkle may be Time Warner’s experimental stand alone streaming deal with Roku, however. I rather doubt that the Feds would approve any deal for AT&T to acquire it, especially since they just grabbed DirecTV. That leaves Fox, which many analysts state would be a better fit.
“I continue to believe that a merger of the two is in both their best interests,” said Rich Greenfield, an analyst for BTIG, “they would have the finance to do it. It would involve selling down satellite TV service BSkyB in the UK and may require other spinoffs.”
Who gets Time Warner is anybody’s guess, and even then, they still have to get approval from the FCC. One thing is for sure, Apple is paying close attention. “Eddy Cue, one of Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook’s top lieutenants, in charge of content deals, has been keeping tabs on proceedings at Time Warner,” the Post said.
So, would you pay for a live action Apple streaming service, especially if it was Warner-centric?
Hat Tip – MacRumors