Apple Pitching iTunes Subscriptions to TV Networks?

MediaMemo reports that Apple has approached a number of TV networks in recent weeks to pitch its vision of a monthly subscription service that would allow the networks to deliver their content to consumers via iTunes with the idea of replacing consumers' cable packages.

Apple isn't tying the proposed service to a specific piece of hardware, like its underwhelming Apple TV box, or its long-rumored tablet/slate device. Instead, it is presenting the offer as an extension of its iTunes software, which already has a huge installed base: A year ago, Apple said it had 65 million iTunes customer accounts.

A so-called "over the top" service could theoretically rival the ones most consumers already buy from cable TV operators -- if Apple is able to get enough buy-in from broadcast and cable TV programmers.

Apple is reportedly looking to launch the service early next year but faces a number of hurdles, the most significant being that no networks have yet to sign on to the plan. Disney, which holds close ties with Apple CEO Steve Jobs and has been an early-adopter of iTunes distribution offerings, is viewed as the likely leader should the movement hope to gain momentum.

According to the report's sources, TV networks are intrigued by the potential for increased revenue streams that could be afforded by Apple's proposal, but are also leery of harming their existing relationships with the cable companies that carry their programming and advertisers who look to viewership numbers on those systems when targeting their campaigns.

The report notes that other companies, including Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, and Google's YouTube have also been moving into the digital delivery arena, indicating that the time may be right for Apple to make its move.

So Apple's proposed subscription service, which the company has floated in the past, is no longer a huge stretch. Says one executive briefed on the company's plans: "I think they might get it right this time."

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