It would get HBO in the bargain.
This item in Wednesday’s New York Post about Apple and Time Warner is intriguing on several levels:
“The tech giant is among a handful of companies, all possible suitors of the entertainment company, which has recently come under pressure from activists to sell itself or spin off assets, sources familiar with the situation said Tuesday.
“With Time Warner shares closing at $71.06 on Tuesday—well below the $85 offer from 21st Century Fox that its board rejected 18 months ago—the New York company is seen as a sitting duck among media companies because it, unlike its peers, doesn’t have a dual-class shareholder structure …
“Eddy Cue, one of Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook’s top lieutenants, in charge of content deals, has been keeping tabs on proceedings at Time Warner, a source close to Apple said.”
Rumors that Apple (AAPL) is about to buy, say, Tesla, Netflix, GoPro, or Yahoo—the first names that pop up into Google search—are a dime a dozen.
This feels different.
First of all, the fact that it appeared in the Post gives it street cred. Like 21st Century Fox, the paper is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp (NWS). Someone from News Corp—perhaps the gossipy Murdoch himself—would have attended one of the series of closed-door meetings Monday and Tuesday that Time Warner (TWX) CEO Jeff Bewkes is reported to have held with investors.
Second, it fits Apple’s needs. According to the Wall Street Journal (also owned by Murdoch) and others, Apple has been trying for years to assemble a “skinny bundle” of the most highly desired channels—or “apps,” as Tim Cook prefers to call them. The idea is that if the programming is good enough, if the price is right, and if the package includes live sports, cable TV subscribers will cut the cord and leave the world of 500-channel TV for Apple’s streaming service.
Time Warner’s HBO—with its movies and prize-winning original series—is one of television’s jewels. It’s already available on Apple TV, iPhone, and iPad, but only a la carte, for $14.99 a month, or to subscribers who pay for it through their cable providers. If Apple owned HBO, it could throw everything from Veep to Game of Thrones into the skinny bundle for free.
With more than $200 billion in the bank, Apple—better than any media company—can afford to buy Time Warner.
Who knows, maybe it will.