Apple has been negotiating directly with TV content providers, rather than cable companies, as part of a new strategy that aims to enable the company to launch its widely speculated Apple Television product.

That's according to a report published by Quartz on Thursday, which cites "people familiar with the discussions" who say Apple is talking with production studios and networks including ESPN, HBO, Viacom, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, in a bid to convince them to provide content for an Apple television set that would emphasise apps over cable TV.

Apple's TV strategy could even lead to the company essentially becoming a cable company itself, offering its content via the internet. According to the report, Intel, Sony and Google are also considering this strategy, which means it could be a race to see who launches its pay TV service first.

The report states that it's not yet clear how far these negotiations have progressed, or how close the companies are to striking a deal, though, so it may mean an Apple television set is still a long way off.

However, according to the report's sources, Apple could launch an Apple television without a majority of the content providers on board, because it believes that consumers would buy the new product as long as it has enough high-quality content to drive consumer demand.

The report does note that, when approached about the speculation, ESPN spokesperson Chris LaPlaca said that discussions about internet TV services are "very, very exploratory in nature," and that "there are no formal discussions taking place."

HBO spokesperson Jeff Cusson told Quartz that it has "no plans to go over the top or enter these markets in a different way."

It's clear that Apple is keen to improve its presence in the living room, though there is some scepticism about whether it really will be by launching an actual television set, or simply giving its Apple TV a significant update.

Read: Apple Television iTV release date, rumours, and pictures; When is the Apple television coming out?

Earlier this month, Apple acquired start-up Matcha.tv, a video discovery app that provides an overview of everything that is available to watch across a variety of services including Netflix, iTunes, Amazon Prime and more, which it could use for its TV product.

Apple's CEO Tim Cook has said that that TV is "an area of great interest" for the company, and the late Steve Jobs is believed to have been keen for Apple to make its mark on the television market.

Other evidence to suggest that Apple is working to improve its Apple TV offering is the recent hiring of Hulu guru Pete Distad, who's role is reportedly to negotiate future media deals for Apple's TV project.

For an in-depth look at the possibility of an Apple television, check out our Will Apple launch a TV article.

See also:

When is the new Apple TV coming out?