"Apple is negotiating with production studios and networks to provide content for a television set that would emphasize apps over cable TV, according to people familiar with those discussions. Among the companies that have talked to Apple are Disney’s ESPN, Time Warner’s HBO, and Viacom, which owns MTV Networks, Nickelodeon, and Comedy Central."
Seems like the cable companies didn't want to be apart of Apple's 'next big thing' so Apple is trying to do it without them. This strategy seems much more likely now that companies like Intel, Google and Sony are also in talks of creating their own 'cable over the internet' services. If Apple can get a few key properties and release it with compelling hardware/software package all of the other content dominoes will soon fall in line.