U.S. wireless carrier AT&T recently announced it had agreed to buy Time Warner in a blockbuster deal valued at more than $85 billion.
Apple reportedly approached the media giant recently about a possible deal, but the discussions were only preliminary and didn’t move forward.
With the AT&T-Time Warner merger requiring regulatory approval that could take months, things could easily change so no wonder watchers have been keeping their fingers crossed for Apple to step in and make a rival bid for Time Warner.
However, “Apple is not interested in buying Time Warner at present,” people familiar with the thinking at the company told CNBC on Wednesday.
Senior executives at AT&T and Time Warner met in recent weeks to discuss various business strategies, reports Bloomberg. Citing sources familiar with the matter, the outlet says that the talks are informal at this point, and neither side has hired a financial adviser, but the discussions have included the possibility of a merger.
Time Warner is taking a ten percent stake in Hulu, joining existing owners Disney, 21st Century Fox and Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Variety reported today. The move should help bolster Hulu’s programming by adding content from Time Warner’s channels, like Turner networks and CNN, which will be part of a new pay TV service that Hulu wants to launch next year. Terms of the investment were not disclosed, but sources claim that Time Warner paid around $583 million for its stake in Hulu, boosting its valuation to a cool $6 billion.
Sources familiar with the matter told The Financial Times that Apple intends to ramp spending on original content production to the tune of “several hundred million dollars a year”. According to the financial newspaper, Apple was also interested in buying Time Warner last year.
Time Warner CEO Jeffrey Bewkes told the New York Post on Wednesday that he would entertain a sale of the company and industry sources contended that Apple could be among the possible suitors, with others said to include carrier AT&T, which now owns DirecTV, and Fox.
The rumour is interesting given Apple’s failed attempts to create a skinny bundle of programming from existing content partners that was supposed to debut alongside the fourth-generation Apple TV in October 2015.
Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes is “pretty confident” Apple is working on a subscription TV service. ABC’s Jon Erlichman reports on Medium today that during Time Warner’s quarterly earnings call, the CEO said that the Cupertino firm is “very forward thinking” on the future of television.
Bewkes’ comments are interesting because Apple and Time Warner recently partnered up to launch ‘HBO Now’ on Apple TV, and rumors have been bouncing around for years that the two were looking to do TV together. In July 2013, Bloomberg reported they were “close” to reaching a deal.
Evidence is mounting that Apple is working on advancing its $99 set-top box around a bunch of new features like downloadable apps and games, iOS 7 game controller support, streamable television channels and subscriptions, DVR and wireless AirPort router capabilities, cable box functionality and what not. Whether any of this pans out is up for debate.
That said, surely Apple won’t be standing still as new entrants like Amazon enter the crowded living room space. Perhaps the most solid piece of evidence to date comes in a filing with the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) related to the planned Comcast and Time Warner Cable merger.