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Was Beck Right? Potential for A La Carte Cable TV Channels Picks Up Steam With Intel Unbundling Rumors


"kill the cable industry as we know it."

Glenn Beck has said that the future of cable television will be a la carte, where the consumer subscribes only to channels they want to watch instead of a bundle with hundreds of unwanted shows. New reports indicate Intel has been working on a set-top box that would do just that.

Kelly Clay for Forbes wrote such a device would "kill the cable industry as we know it." Here's more from Forbes' report on the technology:

This set-top box, said by industry insiders to be available to a limited beta of customers in March, will offer cable channels delivered “over the top” to televisions anywhere there is an Internet connection regardless of provider. (Microsoft Mediaroom, for example, requires AT&T’s service, and Xbox has limited offerings for Comcast and FiOS customers). For the first time, consumers will be able to subscribe to content per channel, unlike bundled cable services, and you may also be able to subscribe per show as well. Intel’s set-top box will also have access to Intel’s already existing app marketplace for apps, casual games, and video on demand. Leveraging the speed of current broadband, and the vast shared resources of the cloud, Intel plans to give customers the ability to use “Cloud DVR”, a feature intended to allow users to watch any past TV show at any time, without the need to record it ahead of time, pause live tv, and rewind shows in progress.

Janko Roettgers for GigaOm wrote that the project is still top-secret but he's learned from several sources that it's being called "Intel Media." Roettgers described the project as being "run like a startup in stealth mode."

The box itself might sound similar to other products on the market, like Roku and Apple TV, but Roettgers wrote Intel might have an advantage over its competition by delivering services to more than just TVs. Tablets, PCs and other devices with a Wi-Fi connection could be included.

Clay for Forbes also stated that Intel's inclusion of Hollywood in the project might give it an edge as well.

"As Intel has approached Hollywood with much more dedication (and dollars), this is likely the single reason that Intel, more than any company before it, has the potential to really bring to consumers the things we have never seen in online content before, such as live sports, release schedules that match broadcast, and first episode through current libraries for video on demand," Clay wrote.

In terms of the unbundling of cable channels moving forward, Roettgers said he's skeptical of that happening. Jeff Bercovici for Forbes spoke with Dish CEO Joseph Clayton in 2012 and wrote that straight up a la carte packages are not quite where the company is headed yet:

"I don’t think that’s practical," [Clayton told Forbes.] "I think the consumers would like to see that. We could do it from a technical standpoint. There are some limitations. But the programmers are never going to do that. They’re going to bundle. Look at AMC. AMC has some good shows, original programming. But they force us to take We and IFC and Sundance, which nobody wants to watch. So I don’t think that’s about consumer choice. That’s a jam job."


"I think we’re going to get to a point at some place in time where we have pushed to consumer to two, three hundred dollars a month for programming. They’re not going to accept that, nor can they afford it. Then the industry will say “Oh my gosh,” and we’ll have to pull back and look at the model. When that is, I do not know."

These content agreements with media companies is setting back Intel's project, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Still, as Bercovici pointed out, at an Oct. 2 debate about customer control of television choices Beck said ultimately "the days of the network dictating how you watch it, when you watch it, what you watch and exactly what order you watch it in are over."

It was rumored that Intel would reveal details about the project and its box at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but Clay reported a spokesperson saying that while it will be holding a press event, discussion of this product specifically would not be included.

(H/T: Business Insider)

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