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Apple's Tim Cook hints at TV ambitions

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Apple has big ambitions in TV.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple’s definitely working on something when it come to TV — but it’s still not ready to tell us about it.

CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday hinted at Apple’s ambitions, but, in typical Cook fashion, didn’t reveal any specifics. 

“We hired two highly respected television executives last year, and they have been here now for several months and have been working on a project that we’re not really ready to share … all the details about it yet,” Cook said during an earnings call with analysts. “But I couldn’t be [more] excited about what’s going on there.”

He added that Apple has “great talent in the area that we’ve sourced from different places and feel really good about what we will eventually offer.” 

In the past year, Apple has continually announced original content it’s producing — including a multiyear partnership deal with Oprah — but hasn’t yet unveiled where that content will go. Some of its early shows, like “Planet of the Apps,” debuted on the Apple Music service. But Apple is widely expected to launch something new for all that content. It’s unclear whether that would be a streaming video service that would rival Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and others, or some sort of other model, like a big package of services that also includes Apple Music. 

The company a year ago hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg from Sony Pictures Television to oversee “all aspects of video programming.” The two were responsible for shows such as “Breaking Bad,” “The Crown” and “Rescue Me.” 

In the early days of Apple TV, the company positioned its streaming media box as a “hobby.” But it’s a hobby no more. Apple doesn’t break out sales of Apple TV, but Cook noted revenue and unit sales increased by “very, very strong double digits” in the third quarter that ended June 30. Later this year, Charter Communications will begin offering Apple’s 4K TV to its subscribers. 

Apple, Netflix and others have benefited from cord cutting, consumers ditching their traditional cable subscriptions in favor of smaller streaming bundles. On-demand TV services like NetflixAmazon Prime and Hulu offer thousands of videos to stream on-demand, while services like Sling TVDirecTV Now and YouTube let you watch live TV over the internet. Increasingly, it’s Apple TVs, Roku boxes and Chromecasts being used to view that content. 

On Tuesday, Cook said he expects cord cutting to accelerate “at a much faster rate” than generally believed. 

“And so we’re really happy to be working on something, we’re just not ready to talk about it in depth today,” he added. 

Also on Tuesday, Apple reported better-than-expected fiscal third-quarter results. It also projected its fourth-quarter revenue to grow more than Wall Street anticipated, indicating a strong iPhone launch, likely in September. It also said its services business revenue posted a 31 percent rise for the second quarter in a row. 

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