Tim Cook Sun Valley

Report: Tech giant talked to TV firms about paying them for passed-over spots

Apple may be ready to revolutionize the TV business after all.

Following years of rumors of all sorts of newfangled products supposedly in development to take over the living rooms, there’s fresh scuttlebutt that Apple is in discussions to create a service that would allow viewers to engage in ad-skipping. The initial report comes courtesy of former Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Lessin.

And here’s the grabber: Apple would supposedly pay the TV networks for the ad revenue they missed out on due to to the skipped commercials.

The particulars are few and far in between, but Apple CEO Tim Cook and senior veep Eddy Cue apparently made the rounds at the Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley last week talking up the new technology to various entities in the TV business. How much consumers would pay for such a product is unknown.

Such a new technology would put a fresh spin on DVR, which has been a sore spot in the TV industry for the past decade. Few companies besides Apple would have pockets deep enough to compensate an entire industry for lost ad dollars.

While TV networks might not mind Apple chipping in to cover the cost of skipped ads, that’s a product that may not sit well with those on Madison Avenue who need the medium to promote their products to the tune of about $70 billion per year.

Where exactly this fits into Apple’s amorphous plans in the TV space is entirely unclear. While Cook has clearly established that cracking the TV market is a more pressing priority than it was for predecessor Steve Jobs, just what shape that invasion could take is anybody’s guess (and plenty of analysts do just that). The new ad-skipping technology could be part of some yet-to-be-revealed set-top box or screen Apple has yet to reveal to the marketplace.

If the new service is meant to be introduced in the shorter term, then it’s likely to find a home on Apple TV, the set-top device that has been a moderate success for Apple, which is more accustomed to wholesale domination of the categories in which it brings products, from iPhone to iPad. Apple TV seems to have emerged as more of a priority in recent weeks, given news that Time Warner Cable may be the first authentication service to find a home on the device, and the hire of key Hulu exec Pete Distad.

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