Apple’s reportedly shopping a new monthly subscription
service to television networks that would seemingly put iTunes in competition
with cable providers.Steve-tv

AllThingsD reports the company has been talking with
networks about a $30 per month plan that would deliver programming via the
popular software. The service would not be tied to specific hardware (such as
Apple TV or the rumored tablet).

Apple is hoping to launch the service early next year, but
so far no network has signed on – not even Disney-owned ABC, where Steve Jobs
is on the board of directors. The nets are said to be cautious, as they don’t
want to upset their cable system partners (and the subscription fees they
generate).

Streaming video online is coming of age quickly. Netflix has
seen incredible success with its “Watch Instantly” option – signing deals to
stream via select Blu-Ray players, the Xbox 360 and (starting later this month)
the PlayStation 3. Amazon offers a similar service and even YouTube has had a
few successful experiments with long-form content as well.

Then, of course, there’s Hulu, which has found a solid
audience online and is now exploring ways to further monetize itself.

With the large installed base of iTunes and the many outlets
it services (including the iPhone and desktop PCs), there’s some promise in
this. And with the influx of internet-enabled television sets hitting the
market and predicted to grow fast, the time could be right for Apple to make a
play in the field.

There are, of course, lingering questions. Even if Apple
gets the major networks on board, would the service be equivalent to cable
offerings? What about premium channels? Would programs be aired in conjunction
with their broadcast premieres or would they be time delayed, as they are with
FLO TV?

It’s an intriguing idea, though – and it sure would be
interesting to see how Apple would distribute it. Hopefully, we’ll learn more
at the company’s January event.

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