Video services

Would an Apple Set-Top Box Pay Off?

Welcome to the broadband and cable news roundup, T.G.I.F. edition.

  • If Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) does manage to cozy up with cable operators and develop a new set-top box -- and that's still a very big if -- the strategic value would far outweigh the direct financial benefits, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett said in a research note. Even if Apple managed to sell "an incredulous" 50 million set-tops a year in 2014, at an average selling price of $250, that would equate to $12.5 billion revenues, or about 5 percent of total revenues. Apple, he reasons, stands to create more value from from linking TV to the rest of its mobile ecosystem. "At its core, Apple is in a platform war, most notably with Google and Amazon. If Apple is able to seamlessly allow TV content to be recorded and then played on other iOS devices, or enable users to watch third party content seamlessly across all Apple devices with a common interface, it will strengthen its platform and provide stronger incentives for consumers to 'standardize' on iOS offerings across their households," he wrote. (See Apple's Pay-TV Path May Run Through Cable .)

  • Media analyst Will Richmond blogs on VideoNuze that cable would be nutty to let Apple in, seeing the likelihood of such a connection at "next to zero." Cable simply has too much to lose from such a partnership. "If they were to let Apple into the living room, cable operators would be effectively ceding long-term ownership of their subscribers to Apple," he writes. Moreover, Apple's involvement could, over time, damage the industry's economics by shining "a far brighter light on the shortcomings of the multichannel subscription model."

  • Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) plans to add 81 jobs in the Kansas City market to fill customer service, finance, sales and other positions, reports the Kansas City Business Journal, which says the additions could boost the MSO's local workforce by about 9 percent. Coincidentally, the MSO's hiring spree comes soon after Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) outlined its plans to introduce 1Gbit/s broadband and TV service bundles in the area. (See Who's Rallying for Google Fiber?)

  • TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) thinks it's found a way for cost-conscious consumers to break the logjam on Sunday nights when popular shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Girls, True Blood and Family Guy pile up in prime time. The $249.99 Premiere 4 can record four programs at the same time, has Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) and Ethernet links for multi-room support, and sports 500GB of storage -- enough to hold 75 hours of HD. The new box costs about $150 less than TiVo's higher-end, four-tuner DVR, the Premiere XL4, which holds 2-terabytes.

  • Avail-TVN has inked a deal to handle video-on-demand services for Qatar Telecom QSC (Qtel) , marking the first international deal for Avail-TVN since it acquired U.K.-based content aggregator On Demand Group (Nasdaq: SEAC) from SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC). (See SeaChange Unloads VoD Content Unit for $27M.)

  • Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) has added a feature called "post-play" that helps binge viewers gobble up TV series and serialized dramas in marathon fashion without breaking a sweat. How it works: at the end of a TV episode, the credits are minimized while Netflix tees up the next episode and starts playing it in 15 seconds. If it's a movie, Netflix will also minimize the credits and serve up three recommendations. Netflix has added post-play to the PS3 and its website, and expects to offer it on other devices soon. Here's a sample of the feature in action.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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