CBS chief argued, then rejected Apple TV subscription pitch from Steve Jobs

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CBS chief executive Les Moonves has revealed that he was approached directly by late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs to discuss a subscription TV service, but he rejected the offer over concerns that it would disrupt the company's existing revenue streams.

Moonves had confirmed last November during an earnings call that Apple had held talks with CBS over a "success-based or non-guaranteed" streaming TV service. During the UCLA Entertainment Symposium on Saturday, he mentioned the additional detail that it was Jobs himself who had given the pitch, Hollywood Reporter reports.

"I told Steve, 'You know more than me about 99 percent of things but I know more about the television business,' " he said.

The executive noted that his reasons for rejecting the service were concerns that it would affect CBS' current revenue sources. According to him, Jobs strongly disagreed with his reasoning.

Moonves did say during the talk that he was optimistic about digital opportunities, calling streaming video service Netflix a "friend" of CBS. Agreements with Hulu and Netflix turned around the CW network, which CBS has a stake in, from being a "losing proposition" to a profitable one.

Reports have suggested that Apple has been pitching its proposed subscription service for years with little success. Moonves' candid remarks serve as some of the most concrete indications that the company was actively pursuing partnerships with content providers.

CBS CEO Les Moonves | Credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

Apple did, however, recently win a small victory in its efforts to attain more flexibility in providing digital video options for consumers. The company announced last week that iTunes in the Cloud functionality has expanded to include re-downloading movies and TV shows. It was also discovered that iTunes Digital Copy files are now recognized as Purchased in iTunes in the Cloud and can be streamed to a second-generation Apple TV.

The company unveiled last week the third-generation Apple TV with support for 1080p video output. The new set-top box goes on sale later this week.

According to one recent report, Apple is actively "pushing ahead" with its plans for a streaming TV service in the face of resistance from studios and other content providers. People familiar with the matter told The New York Post that Apple is set on getting the service off the ground before the end of the year. The company has reportedly decided to launch the service first before bringing to market its much-rumored television set. Multiple sources believe Apple could unveil a high-definition connected TV as early as late 2012 in preparation for release in early 2013.