The talks illustrate that Apple is seeking a less radical path to expand in television than it has contemplated in the past, namely teaming up with existing service providers rather than licensing content to compete with them directly.
By building a set-top box that could be used with cable operators, Apple would be following a similar playbook that it used to transform the mobile-phone industry: convincing existing service providers to marry their service with Apple’s hardware and software.
Apple currently sells a $99 Apple TV box in the US that lets users access some Internet video on their TVs, but not live channels supplied by cable operators. Whether the device under discussion is an iteration of that hardware or a more sophisticated box is unclear. Sales have been picking up, but are still small. The company sold 1.3 million in its quarter ending June 30th, up 170 per cent from the previous year.