The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple has hired Peter Stern (second from right), a former executive at Time Warner Cable. The paper believes that Stern will be working under Eddy Cue on the firm’s “cloud services,” whatever those may be. It’s too early to jump to conclusions, but it’s interesting to note that Stern was believed to be negotiating with Apple in the early days of its TV project. The paper also says that Stern feels that the business model of the set-top box is outdated and that the future of TV is apps. That’s a sentiment shared by several of his new colleagues, including Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Of course, Stern has also developed a reputation for increasing Time Warner’s customer base by placing an emphasis on customer service. It’s entirely plausible that he’s simply a promising executive who is being poached for a role within Apple’s growing services team. After all, with Apple Music and iCloud, Apple is developing a business that collects subscription revenue for its products, much like a cable company. That’s an area where Stern has plenty of experience and a track record that could have caught Cue’s eye.
Then again, a more fanciful reading of the situation could be that, as a cable insider, Stern would make a perfect negotiator. Apple’s long-mooted streaming TV service has struggled because the company couldn’t make deals with the TV world. CBS chief Les Moonves believes that Apple gave up because cable businesses were too wedded to their existing business model. Other reports suggest that Apple’s refusal to share customer data was the biggest roadblock, while others reported that the company struggled to develop a compelling $40-a-month bundle.
If you wanted to be even more fanciful, you could note that Tim Cook’s Apple has shown a willingness to buy in experience, wholesale, in areas where it’s weak. The firm splashed out $3 billion on Beats Electronics in order to get at the headphone firm’s subscription music arm. The platform was developed by one of the record industry’s biggest players, Jimmy Iovine, who personally intervened to get big names like Taylor Swift and Drake to sign up with Apple Music. Stern’s reputation isn’t as weighty as Iovine’s, but the fact that he worked for Time Warner will re-heat leftover speculation about Apple’s long-rumored (and totally implausible) acquisition of the company to get to HBO.