UPDATE: Updated the title to be more representative of the content of the piece, will leave the link so previous links aren't broken.
I've written previously that the current television market is antiquated and that no progress on the Apple TV (whether literally a television set or just a new set top box with far advanced capabilities) can be made until that changes. I strongly believe this to be the case and, if I had to guess, is the only reason we haven't seen a new Apple TV that goes from being "just a hobby" to another leg on the Apple product "stool".
Rumors are flying this week about ongoing negotiations between Apple and Comcast. This situation is reminiscent of the smartphone industry before the iPhone. Prior to the iPhone, the carriers held the power, they controlled the phone software, they controlled the "apps" (I have a hard time calling those apps when we know what real apps are like today), they controlled everything. Apple came in and took back control, because without that control they cannot own the user experience. Apple has mastered owning the user experience and has repeatedly offered products that succeed because of this curated, clean, and enjoyable experience.
The television content/distribution market today is an extremely similar landscape to the smartphone industry before the iPhone. As I said in Reality Check: Disrupting the TV Industry, the content owners currently hold the power. Comcast is an owner and a distributor. Comcast is now in the role that AT&T was in back in 2006/2007 for the original iPhone.
If Apple plays their cards right the consumers stand to gain from this in truly magnificent ways. I say the consumer because if Apple succeeds, content owners will be working aggressively to add other partners (Amazon, Google, and Microsoft come to mind) to avoid letting Apple have too much power over them. With multiple partners and multiple platforms, the growth and advancement will come at a drastically increased pace. Consider the delta in smart phones from 2004 to 2007 and then again from 2009 to 2012; now imagine that growth in the television industry (not a one-to-one comparison, but this stands to have a flood gate effect like the iPhone created).
This also goes hand in hand with why I don't believe Apple needs to make an actual television set to transform the television industry. Their reach will be far greater if they offer this revolution in the form of a reasonably priced set top box, though I'd assume above their current $99 Apple TV price tag.
I believe we're on the cusp of a revolution in television, we just need the flood gate to open a little bit and the rest will take care of itself.