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Apple, Comcast in Streaming TV Talks – Report

Ray Le Maistre

Apple is talking to Comcast about a partnership that would deliver a video streaming service to Apple TV users at guaranteed quality levels over the cable company's vast broadband network, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

According to the report, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is keen to guarantee a high-quality live and on-demand TV/video service to those who buy its tiny set-top box, and can't rely on the best-effort nature of the public Internet. As a result, it is in talks to secure a guaranteed quality of service from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which provides its cable services to more than 21 million US households.

The move is interesting for a number of reasons.

Apple has previously held similar talks with Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), which is set to be acquired by Comcast. (See Is Apple TV the New Cable Channel?, Comcast Strikes $45B Deal for TWC, and Comcast-TWC Deal: Playing All the Numbers.)

Comcast has previously been somewhat reluctant to team up with the OTT players, so these talks signify a change in attitude for the cable giant.

The rumors also come as Netflix CEO CEO Reed Hastings calls for tighter net neutrality rules to protect US Internet video providers against the "tolls" imposed by large ISPs for service delivery interconnections with broadband networks. (See Netflix CEO Wants 'Strong' Net Neutrality .)

Deals between OTT players, such as Netflix and Apple, and the communication service providers (CSPs) are becoming increasingly popular, and hove proven successful for both parties in markets such as the UK, where Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) was the first to offer the BBC's iPlayer service over its network and now offers Netflix as a dedicated channel to its cable customers with TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO)-integrated cable boxes. (See Netflix to Spend Big, Strike Cable Deals in 2014 and Top European MSOs Embrace Next-Gen Video.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Beer
3/27/2014 | 10:45:02 PM
Re: What's it worth
It's almost funny when you think about it. It seems like the phone & OS providers are the ones who control the market.
sam masud
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/25/2014 | 3:08:41 PM
What's next?
Today it's ISP like Comcast striking deals on OTT video, but what's next? Admittedly, OTT tv is different because it's a bandwidth bog, but will the attention of Comcast next turn to other content providers (on-line multiplayer video gaming, maybe) whose sites prove to be popular with subscribers...
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/25/2014 | 11:26:21 AM
Re: What's it worth
And as for what Comcast gets out of the deal?  Presumably the clout to take on -- and throttle -- Google/YouTube, with a behemoth like Apple in its corner.
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/25/2014 | 7:10:26 AM
Re: What's it worth
@Pcharles09 I was thinking the exact same thing. In terms of world domination, two brands stands out: Google and Apple. 
User Rank: Light Beer
3/24/2014 | 9:25:01 PM
Re: What's it worth
Comcast is trying to take over the world huh. What better partner to cozy up with than Apple. I guess Google was probably a close 2nd.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/24/2014 | 5:35:45 PM
Re: What's it worth
Even if Apple does build its own CDN, it needs to make it through that last mile to customers. That's where Comcast comes in. 
User Rank: Lightning
3/24/2014 | 1:51:48 PM
Re: What's it worth
Like everything else that is spoken about Apple, this is purely speculation at this point. The article on WSJ doesn't name anyone in particular as a source. As to what this could mean, It "could" mean that Apple will get special treatment or QOS service for apple store traffic. OR - it could mean that Comcast is willing to allow AppleTV as a second set-top box, like the digital deals with Microsoft xBox360. The traffic issue on data caps would be dependent on the FCC/DOJ actually stepping in, which they currently have not, in any of these attempts to add what the tech community amounts to as a "troll toll". 

What will get consumers riled up will be if ONLY Apple 1st party content will be exempt from caps, but non-apple content running on the AppleTV device counts against the cap. (such as NetFlix/Hulu). At that point, Comcast could pull the rug out from under customer's feet and drop everyone's data caps down to 10-20Gb and say "use our partnered services, or pay 10$ overages". 
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/24/2014 | 1:16:53 PM
Re: What's it worth
There has been a longstanding I believe well-founded rumor Apple is building its own network/CDN ala Netflix.   My guess is if they reach some kind of deal and there won't be any transit/interconnection costs on either side.  The reality is Apple is still a pretty small player overall mainly due to the pay-per-view rather than a subscription model.  

I think this is very different from Comcast/Netflix.  If Apple is striking a deal to not affect bandwidth caps or get preferential service on Comcast's access network, that is going to start ringing Net Neutrality bells.   That type of setup is currently flying with ATT and its mobile networks, but I don't think the FCC long-term is going to allow it for home ISPs.  


User Rank: Light Sabre
3/24/2014 | 12:02:53 PM
Re: Bandwidth transparency

Good question. 

From an engineering perspective, I can think of at least three ways to keep a statistical floor on Best Effort performance in a DOCSIS serving group. 

From a regulatory perspective, the FCC would have to make Rules for Best Effort service performance.   Those would depend upon how much DC Circuit will let them  torture Sec. 706 of the Communications Act. 
User Rank: Light Beer
3/24/2014 | 10:46:36 AM
What's it worth
What's it worth?   For transacational service like buying TV show on Apple TV, how about 10%?

$2.99 a 30 minute HD (~24 minute) show that $0.30 @ 2mbps ~ > $20 / mbps /month (assuming some # hours peak per day x 30 days)

But transit rates are < $1/mbps / month

OK, so 10% is too much....termination BW will cost a lot more, but that much more?

It's interesting to compare this Apple deal to the Comcast - Netflix.

 Comcast and Netflix have likely done a bulk deal....But Netflix is effectively buying QOS as well.   Sure Apple it says Apple will pay for QOS, but if Netflix is deliverying data up to Comcast's door, and Comcast is now accepting this traffic, effectively Netflix is purchasing QOS as well, as Comcast is not going to allow Netflix traffice to swamp their internal network.....

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