Rumor mill: Apple near deal on new 99-cent content, iTV rollout Sept. 1

Apple's rollout of its rumored iTV could come as soon as Sept. 1 and could include a new library of content priced at 99 cents per episode from programmers including Fox, CBS, NBC Universal and ABC.

Bloomberg is reporting that Apple's talks with Fox owner News Corp. are at an advanced stage, and are focused on Apple being allowed to rent episodes of popular programs to consumers for 99 cents for 48 hours through its popular iTunes store. The programs would become available 24 hours after they originally air and likely would be free of advertisements, Bloomberg reports. Content would be playable on iPads, iPhones, the iPod Touch, computers and TV screens.

Apple already offers some 50,000 pieces of content from networks on iTunes for between 99 cents and $2.99 per episode, with ABC and CBS shows having the biggest draw. Apple has been selling shows through iTunes for four years. It was the first online service to offer single episodes for downloads. The new model would allow users to buy episodes through Apple TV. Apple currently allows users to purchase full seasons of a show for download later.

Its iTunes audience already numbers some 65 million, an attractive customer base that already is comfortable buying content from the online marketplace.

The rumored move follows on the heels of news that Apple also was in the process of getting ready to re-launch its foundering Apple TV, a product that has managed to attract a small following of Apple aficionados, but has seen little interest elsewhere. The new device, renamed iTV, is expected to carry a price tag of $99, and be designed to stream content from the iTunes store. It's also expected to be revealed Sept. 1.

This isn't Apple's first time around the block with network TV execs. In November it was reported that Apple had trotted out an online TV subscription service with a $30-a-month price tag. Reports said the plan drew some interest from ABC-Apple CEO Steve Jobs sits on the board of directors of parent company Disney--and CBS. At the time, News Corp. and Turner were said to be looking askance at the plan.

If Apple succeeds in making a broader deal for content, it will give it a leg up in its race with Google, and its soon-to-be-released Google TV platform. Google thus far has had little success in lining up content partners for its smart TV play.

Industry insiders say Google lacks the necessary ties to the industry, unlike Apple's ties to Disney through its CEO.

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