Apple's Flirtation With Time Warner Purchase Foretells Big TV, Movie Moves in the Future

Apple's probably not buying the HBO and Warner Brothers owner, but it's on the prowl for media purchases.

With Apple’s smartphone sales starting to flatten, the company has been vocal about its plans to make bigger and more frequent acquisitions. And according to a report by the Financial Times, one of those potential acquisitions might have been Time Warner.

An upper-level Apple employee reportedly suggested the possibility of a bid with the head of Time Warner’s corporate strategy in a meeting at the end of last year — a possibility that seems to have been later rejected. (Apple declined to comment in an email to Inverse.) The media company — one of few accessible media powerhouses since many of its peers like Viacom and 21st Century Fox are founder- or family-owned — owns HBO, CNN, and Warner Brothers.

The deal would have thrust Apple into the same league as competitors like Amazon and Netflix, which have invested billions in producing original content. In March, Apple announced it was embarking on its first foray into original video programming with an unscripted show about apps with for the Apple TV box. Rumors have been swirling that Apple intends to offer an online TV service to directly compete with Netflix. Owning a content powerhouse with the likes of Silicon Valley and Veep in its portfolio would have been a major step for Apple in this direction.

What would an Apple-owned Time Warner have looked like? It’s safe to say that the deal would have catapulted Apple TV into the limelight, potentially helping the product gain a larger portion of the streaming video market share. According to a market intelligence report released earlier this month, Apple TV trailed behind Roku, Google Chromecast, and Amazon Fire TV in sales last year. While HBO is available through Apple products, customers currently have to pay a monthly premium. Buying Time Warner might have allowed Apple to throw in HBO’s popular content for free in a potential streaming service bundle, driving legions of Game of Thrones lovers toward the Apple TV.

Of course, nothing is a sure thing – and beyond the success of the iTunes store, Apple has a heck of a bad reputation when it comes to providing network or media services.

Though the FT says the Time Warner acquisition talks have withered — if they ever got past the initial conversation at all — Apple is certainly still trolling around for good buys in the original content space. The same report by the FT says Cook and company’s next potential target could be none other the red streaming giant Netflix. We’ll stay tuned to see how that one pans out.

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