Apple TV+ Is Coming to Cable Boxes

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It’s become clear over the past few years that Apple is no longer content to keep its highest-profile services exclusive to users of Apple devices, and in particular the company has been on a mission to get Apple TV+ onto as many third-party consumer devices as possible.

While Apple famously made Apple Music available to Android users years ago, and then later brought it to the Amazon Echo and even high-end luxury cars, it wasn’t until this month that Apple Music found its first footing on a console device, in the form of a new partnership with Sony to bring the music service to the PS5.

By contrast, however, Apple’s TV app has come to a staggering array of third-party devices of all shapes and sizes, including smart TVs by Samsung, LG, Sony, and Vizio, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Roku set-top boxes and compatible smart TVs, and even Google’s Chromecast, Microsoft’s Xbox, and Sony’s PS4 and PS5.

In fact, it’s already nearly impossible to find a modern TV set, streaming box, or game console that you can’t use to watch Apple’s hit shows like Ted Lasso. Now it looks like Apple has just brought Apple TV+ to the outer reaches of the consumer entertainment sphere, thanks to a new deal with Comcast.

As first reported by Variety, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told investors during the company’s Q3 earnings call that the cable giant has now struck a deal that will see the Apple TV app land on most of Comcast’s modern video platforms. This includes Xfinity X1, Flex, and XClass TV.

In return, Apple will make Comcast’s Xfinity Stream app available on the Apple TV set-top box.

This also reaches beyond Comcast, suggesting that it could be part of a push by Apple to get more cable providers on board. In a press release adorned with a photo of Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon meeting up in The Morning Show, U.K. TV provider Sky has also announced that it’s bringing Apple TV+ to its Sky Glass and Sky Q customers.

The arrangement with Sky still appears to be tied to the Comcast deal, since the British television provider has been a wholly owned subsidiary of Comcast since 2018.

As with Comcast, this also appears to be a two-way partnership, where Sky’s NOW members will be able to sign up for and purchase memberships on their Apple TV, iPhone, iPad, or Mac using Apple’s in-app purchasing system. The SkyGo app will also be coming to Apple TV devices early next year.

Comcast has also been fairly ambitious in developing new hardware platforms recently that extend its reach beyond its own subscriber base, such as the XClass TV in the U.S., which has been made in partnership with HiSense and sold through Walmart, as well as the XiOne wireless streaming devices in Italy and Germany.

Both devices are ultimately intended to promote Comcast’s own online Xfinity premium streaming service, and “own input A” on TV sets, as the company’s executives put it.

Strategically, this is a much bigger move for Apple, since even as people are increasingly cutting the cord, there are still many consumers tied almost exclusively to their cable boxes who won’t even consider streaming services that require additional hardware.

In fact, this was likely a big part of the problem Apple faced last year when it acquired the rights to the Peanuts franchise and moved the much-loved Charlie Brown holiday specials exclusively to Apple TV+. Even though Apple promised to stream these on Apple TV+ at no charge, it still faced complaints from over a quarter-million angry Peanuts fans who were left unable to watch the specials without buying new hardware.

In the end, Apple had to partner with PBS to return these traditional specials back to broadcast television in some form, but it’s fair to say that the outrage would have likely been far less if every cable subscriber in the U.S. had access to Apple TV+ to watch these shows for free.

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