Comcast-Apple rumor picked apart by skeptics

Calling a rumored streaming deal between Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) "too good to be true," tech publication GigaOM and others questioned the timing and details of the Wall Street Journal report that set the industry abuzz.

"(T)he real deal breaker here seems to be Comcast's merger with Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC)," GigaOM's Janko Roettgers wrote. While other publications saw an Apple-Comcast deal as a way to pacify regulators reviewing the merger, Roettgers pointed out several reasons why that's not the real issue.

In addition to having invested millions in building out its next-generation Xfinity service and related hardware, like the X1 set top box, "Comcast has long been the company most concerned about owning the relationship with the customer," Roettgers wrote. Meaning that the cable giant wants to be the one that controls the vertical and the horizontal (if you're into "Outer Limits" references, anyway). Comcast is already encouraging subscribers to access VOD services through its own apps on devices like Xbox and Roku, rather than standalone apps like HBO Go.

Engadget's Richard Lawler called the rumor "interesting timing," noting that the deal would supposedly enable the Apple TV device to stream linear content and DVR recordings over a managed connection to avoid traffic bottlenecks. Citing Apple's historic lack of innovation or action in the TV space, Lawler expressed skepticism that the deal would go through. "The WSJ reported that Apple had shifted its focus to potentially working with cable providers back in 2012, and despite what's happened in the industry since then, we're still not holding our breath on this one."

While there's always a possibility the deal will happen, Business Insider's Jay Yarow saw it as a messy, potentially unprofitable move for Apple. Providing special treatment to Apple TV traffic would require Comcast to invest more in its own network to ensure a high-quality, reliable stream. Apple would likely want a cut of the cable operator's subscriber revenue, Yarow said. "The whole thing sounds messy and complicated. It also seems like a relatively small business for Apple."

There's also a case for Apple doing something entirely different, but still content-related. The manufacturer recently recruited several cable industry veterans, including experienced content negotiators. Rumors are also swirling that it is considering offering an iTunes app for Android smartphones, as well as a new on-demand music streaming service to compete with Spotify and Beats Music.

For more:
- WSJ has this story (sub. req.)
- Business Insider has this story
- Engadget has this story
- GigaOM has this story
- CNET has this story
- FierceCable has this coverage

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