Eddy Cue, Apple's head of internet software and services, raised the idea of his company buying Time Warner in talks with the media giant late last year, a report said on Thursday.
The topic came up during a meeting with Olaf Olafsson, Time Warner's head of corporate strategy, three sources told the Financial Times. The meeting happened at Time Warner's Manhattan headquarters, and was nominally focused on potential partnerships, such as Time Warner channels being featured in an Apple streaming video service.
Talks of a buyout didn't go beyond a preliminary level, and in fact didn't reach Apple CEO Tim Cook or Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, the sources said.
A Time Warner takeover would have given Apple instant access to a wide range of content, since the company owns channels like HBO, TBS, The CW, and Cartoon Network, as well as studios like Warner Bros., Castle Rock, and New Line.
It's not clear why the talks fell through, but sources told the Times that Apple is planning to ramp up spending on original content to "several hundred million dollars a year," and that it still hasn't ruled out buying a media company.
The latter option might be difficult if it doesn't want Time Warner though, since many other media corporations have dual share structures and are controlled by founders and their families. Disney is technically an easier an option in this regard, but likely far too expensive given a $162.52 billion market cap.
Rumors of an Apple video streaming service have all but died, with reports suggesting that content providers have been hesitant to exclude some of their channels from a "skinny" bundle costing less than $30 per month. In January, though, Apple was said to be keeping a close eye on Time Warner going up for sale, possibly with the intent of snatching up individual assets.