[Future TV] A Proposal From Apple to Offer Online TV Subscriptions Stirs Network Interest

Apple is eliciting tentative interest from some networks in its proposal to offer a TV subscription package via the Internet.

Theoretically, customers would be able to tune in online, allowing them to cancel their cable or satellite subscriptions.

ABC and CBS are among the networks that are considering joining the Apple venture, people close to the talks said Monday night. The people requested anonymity because they were not authorized by their companies to comment on confidential talks. They said that the talks were at a very early stage.

ABC is a unit of the Walt Disney Company, which could also make two of its cable channels, ABC Family and the Disney Channel, available through the proposed service. The CBS Corporation owns half of the CW network, a smaller broadcaster that could also join. Spokesmen for CBS and Disney declined to comment.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday night that some other major TV companies, including the News Corporation, which owns Fox, and Turner Broadcasting, which owns CNN and TNT, were more wary of Apple???s initial overtures.

Broadband Internet subscriptions to TV networks could potentially destabilize the bedrock of the television business, which relies on subscribers paying for dozens of bundled channels.

The blog All Things D reported last month that Apple was proposing a $30-a-month supplement to its iTunes service to the networks. The networks would receive monthly payments from Apple.

Disney is seen as a possible partner because Apple???s chief, Steven P. Jobs, is a board member and because it was the first company to sell single TV episodes on iTunes four years ago.

The major broadcasters, and some cable channels, now sell episodes for $1.99 or $2.99 on iTunes. Among the most often purchased shows this year on iTunes were ???Gossip Girl,??? on the CW network; ???NCIS,??? on CBS; and ???FlashForward??? and ???Grey???s Anatomy,??? both on ABC.

Brooks Barnes contributed reporting.

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24) ??A version of this article appeared in print on December 22, 2009, on page B8 of the New York edition.


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