An announcement probably shouldn't be expected anytime soon, as the discussion between the two sides are in the early stages with several road bumps in the way, The Wall Street Journal reports. However, if Apple and Comcast can get a deal done, it could mark a shift in the entertainment sector, as big media and cable companies have so far been reluctant to fully embrace the streaming revolution. In this case, Apple's set-top box would effectively replace a user's cable box.
Apple could try and go at this alone, but one reason it needs to strike a deal with Comcast is to gain priority access for its streaming traffic. Without a deal in place, Comcast could throttle Apple's streaming traffic, which would result in frequent buffering and lower quality video. This is the very reason why Netflix caved and inked a multi-year agreement with Comcast. It's an issue of Net Neutrality, and at present, ISPs are free to throttle traffic however they wish.
In any event, there are some hurdles to overcome. For one, an agreement like this would require Comcast to expand its infrastructure with additional investments in network equipment and back-office technology. Secondly, the two sides don't currently agree on how close Apple's relationship should be with Comcast's subscribers. Apple wants a piece of the monthly subscription fee and is also proposing that users sign in to the new device using Apple IDs.
Assuming Apple and Comcast figure out these issues, there's still the challenge of securing TV programming rights from media companies.