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If cable service providers want help revolutionizing the television industry, they definitely have funny way of asking for it.
During the Goldman Sachs Communacopia investor conference today, Time Warner Cable President Rob Marcus said his company would be interested in selling TV subscriptions using third-party technology under the right circumstances. Essentially, TWC is willing to give up control on certain aspects of the subscription experience (like the user interface) as long as it continues to deal with its customers directly.
To translate, that means TWC is open to the idea of using an independent set-top box as a replacement cable device.
Last month, rumors claimed that Apple was in discussions with TWC about a partnership allowing cable subscribers to use an Apple device to access content, as VentureBeat previously reported. The rumored Apple device allegedly would mix the innovation and developer enthusiasm of Apple’s App Store with the current pay-TV subscription cable and satellite services. However, the rumors also indicate that discussions weren’t going anywhere because Apple wanted more control than TWC was willing to give.
Having now used TWC’s user interface for a month, I can say with certainty that it prohibits me from watching a lot of cable TV content. I spend far more time on my Roku and Xbox watching Netflix and Amazon Prime than I do Time Warner’s live broadcast channels or OnDemand content.
That said, TWC’s cable TV interface is awful and should be entirely replaced. I’m guessing the company knows that, but it’s still a bit skittish when it comes to turning over the keys to its otherwise successful television subscription business.
While Marcus’ comment don’t necessarily confirm that rumors of its alleged discussions with Apple are true, it certainly adds credibility to the idea that the cable provider wants help revamping its cable television service.
At the same time, TWC could be positioning itself for offers from other set-top box/platform providers. After all, Marcus didn’t specifically mention Apple in his commentary. Roku is currently partnering with Dish Network, and Microsoft’s Xbox Live platform has deals set up with Comcast’s Xfinity TV, AT&T’s Uverse, and Verizon’s FiOS.
Apple iTV mockup by Guilherme Schasiepen/Flickr