Apple Subscription TV Rumor Resurfaces, Still Shaky

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You know what they say about tech rumors: If you repeat them for long enough, eventually they’ll come true. The Wall Street Journal is doing its share of repeating with a rumor on Apple’s subscription television plans, which have been coming together in whispers for years.

What sayeth the WSJ’s “people familiar with the matter” now? Apparently Apple “has been discussing whether to try to launch a subscription TV service,” and is working on some kind of new technology to make it happen.

(MORE: Bad Apple Rumor: Smart TV Incoming)

The problem, as always, is with those cranky media company executives, who the WSJ says are “reluctant to give up control of their products and fear Apple will end up eating away at their profits.” Translation: No one gets to kill the lucrative cable business model, especially not Apple.

The rumor of Apple launching a subscription-based television service has been kicking around for a couple years now. In 2009, All Things D reported that Apple was pitching a $30 per month iTunes-based TV service to media companies. Disney and CBS were supposedly interested, but the service never materialized. More recently, Jefferies analyst Peter Misek has claimed that Apple’s on the cusp of launching some kind of Netflix competitor, having already made secret deals with all the major movie studios. So far, still nothing.

For now, Apple’s been trying to push $1 TV show rentals through its Apple TV set-top box, but even that concept hasn’t won over all the major networks. ABC and Fox are cooperating, but NBC and CBS won’t sell their shows for such low prices.

Eventually, some tech company will find a path to network executives’ hearts. It could very well be Apple. As the Wall Street Journal points out, this will be one of Tim Cook’s big challenges as the new CEO of Apple.

But the problem with rumors about web-based video services is that those services are always at the whim of content owners. And they tend to move very, very slowly.

MORE: Is Apple TV Just One Big App That’s Destined for the iPad?