Uh, obviously that isn't what they're doing. They don't need to negotiate with MSOs to make a cablecard device. If Apple makes a cablecard device, FCC mandates that the MSOs permit it. MSOs wouldn't have a choice just like they don't have a choice with TiVo.
The only reason to negotiate with MSOs is to STREAM their content like the previously mentioned XBOX+Comcast stuff or the Cox+iPad stuff.
It looks to me that they want Apple TV with functionality resembling the Cox iPad app except it actually work after updating But the MSO has to permit such functionality just as Cox is the one putting the iPad app up.
My guess is there is a new Apple TV in the works that runs apps from an Apple TV app store and they want to offer (embedded) apps resembling the Cox iPad app in addition to games and everything else. Such a device, if still in the $99 range I reckon would be immensely popular. Apple TV would then supplant the Wii as the budget game console, especially since the Wii-U goes upscale.