Tags: intel | set-top | cable | bundling

Intel TV: Set-Top Box Could Pull Plug on Cable Bundling

Wednesday, 02 Jan 2013 06:13 PM

By Dale Eisinger

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A new set-top entertainment box manufactured by Intel could disrupt the current "bundling" model of cable television in which consumers are forced to pay for channels they really don't want, analysts say.

Intel has been working for the last year on the top-secret device, a new entertainment system which will provide cable channels in an “over the top” setting. The box will work anywhere there is an internet connection to stream content, as opposed to similar in-development products at Google, Apple, and Microsoft that depend on which net service provider you have.

Beyond the universal appeal to Web accessibility, the big draw of this device is the ability of subscribers to choose which channels are sent to the box and pay only for those. This could spell big trouble for some of the less-popular channels currently on cable. Who will watch the subsidized History Channel when no one wants to pay uniquely for the History Channel?

Previously, issues with streaming, content, and licensing prevented such a device from being made. Now that Intel has figured out how to hop those hurdles, it looks like it's full steam ahead for bundle-less streaming.

Skeptics wonder if the new subscription model, in its attempt to break the cable packages, could actually save consumers any money.

"Those bundles are core to today's TV ecosystem. And the TV guys insist that consumers really don't want 'a la carte' programming, because if they do, the channels/shows they like today will end up costing much, much more," wrote Peter Kafka at All Things D.

Intel was staking a future on large orders of computer chips for AppleTV and Microsoft Mediaroom. But as those companies develop their own streaming content systems, they are in-sourcing their components. So, the computer-chip manufacturer went ahead to develop its own box.

Intel's new device will be available to a limited number of beta testers this March, according to industry insiders speaking with Forbes.

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