Discussions did not ultimately progress and there was no purchase, but CNBC today provided some previously unknown background information about the talks between the two companies.
Eddy Cue met with Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes and former executive vice president Olaf Olafsson in 2015 to start discussing partnership opportunities that would see Apple exclusively offering Time Warner content, perhaps bundling Turner and HBO content for a monthly fee.
Talks went on for a few weeks and involved Apple CEO Tim Cook, but ultimately soured over disagreements about fees and marketing. Offering Turner networks outside of a cable bundle could anger pay-TV distributors, and Apple was concerned about annoying existing media partners.
There were also fears that either Apple or Time Warner could eventually back out of the exclusive partnership, which could be disastrous to their future relationships. Because of this, Cook, Cue, and Bewkes briefly discussed an Apple acquisition of Time Warner.
Cue “expressed interest” in a full acquisition of Time Warner, but Cook was not ready to agree to the deal, which would have been somewhere around $100 billion. Neither Cook nor Bewkes expected to reach an acquisition deal, and Time Warner was ultimately sold to AT&T.
Today, AT&T has combined WarnerMedia with Discovery (pending regulatory approval), and the deal was structured in a way that allows the WarnerMedia-Discovery company to be sold down the road. CNBC suggests that Apple is one of the few companies that could afford to purchase WarnerMedia-Discovery.
Since its 2015 talks with Time Warner, Apple has gone on to establish its own catalog of original content and an Apple TV+ streaming service, though a major acquisition like WarnerMedia would give it the content that it needs to compete with other companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+.