Anand's Thoughts on Intel's TV Initiative

by Anand Lal Shimpi on 2/14/2013 4:21 PM EST


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  • Sprigjr - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I love anandtech. Reply
  • artvscommerce - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I often have that same thought. Just make sure you don't say that in ATOT! It never ends well.. Reply
  • spazmedia - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Intel will undoubtedly build an amazing product to access content. However the BIG problem, and I mean big, is getting the license to distribute the content. All the content producers (studios) need to be on board. This is not a trivial task and armies of lawyers will be involved. Intel can spend all they want but they have absolutely no presence, from a negotiation perspective, in the entertainment business. In fact if they were serious about this project they would have sought out partners. What complicates matters further is that these same studios also own cable networks. They have no interest in divesting of those interests.
  • Khato - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    One interesting perspective to take on this though is that Intel has a chance at negotiating purely because they aren't in the entertainment business. As you correctly point out, when the content owners also have a stake in the cable networks there's no reason for them to license content for any less than what they get from the cable networks as a whole... which basically requires the cost to the consumer to be higher in order for the third party to make a profit.

    Intel potentially has an interesting play here in that they don't need to make money on the content. Initially at least I'd imagine they'd be fine with just making money on the hardware and having the content portion be at cost... and in that case the sales pitch to the content owners would be the advertisements aspect. If the content owners could actually be making more money through Intel's IPTV due to greater ad revenue than they do through with the current system... well, why exactly wouldn't they give it a try to see if it pans out?
  • mrdude - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    ad revenue is only one aspect, and it's actually not favorable for them. Ads online aren't greeted with the same obliviousness. People are well aware of ads online and hate them with a passion. If the ads are done the same way they are on television - which would essentially be the same exact viewing experience as watching it over the air - then where's the benefit?

    I don't see this going anywhere unless the big content providers are able to make a significant profit. Breaking up the stranglehold on content, packaging and service, is a move in the opposite direction, though. Unless the providers are making the same amount of money, or more, per-customer, they won't bother. But unless this is significantly cheaper than cable or satellite subscription, viewers won't care.
  • ricardoduarte - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I honestly think that this might work, like anand pointed out correctly intel needs a backup strategy from the sinking PC business, and they are (in my opinion) the best company to change it all. Imagine how this model would simplify infrastructures for cable operators ( i dont know about US but in EU usually they provide internet and tv tied in their infrastructure).
    This approach would allow them to reduce infrastructure costs greatly, while keeping costumers attached to it, the way i see it, if a cable operator is to adopt this, they would use it as an excuse to replace tivo (i use virgin in uk) or recording boxes, and charge a premium on top while things on their side a being upgraded to eventually do a full switch.
    If you think about this cable operators would only have to worry about delivering the content, and internet connection service, which would reduce their costs greatly (if intel isn't too greedy).

    The only thing that makes me wonder is if cable operators will be happy to depend of intel, because by using this model intel could in theory dictate the price of cable and annoy a lot people.

    If intel are clever enough they only build the sdks for the cable boxes and leave the UI's to be done by content providers so they can create a branding illusion.
  • mrdude - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    "If you think about this cable operators would only have to worry about delivering the content, and internet connection service..."

    While bandwidth and connectivity may be great in the UK, there are many people in the US who live in rural areas. As a result, the infrastructure costs wouldn't actually be decreased but potentially increased as they'd have to add a much bigger web presence, consider the issue of hosting, servers, etc. These are all things they already have, but having millions of people demanding 24/7 uptime and fast speeds is another story entirely.

    Furthermore, there just aren't many people who have cut the cord. The content providers are making money hand over fist and data caps are still the norm. Neither of those looks like it's going to change anytime soon.

    This model would work if there was an untapped market so big that it would allow for these companies and providers to deviate from their current pricing schemes and content delivery systems. There isn't, though. And without an incentive ($$$), it just won't happen.

    I understand Intel needs to diversify given the threat from below, but this just doesn't look like it's the right direction nor the right time.
  • new-paradigm - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    We have the same problem in the UK. Connection out in the sticks is not always great... although broadband over phone is at least usually able to give a couple of megs download speed. Reply
  • ricardoduarte - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    We have the same problem in uk with data connection.
    With the right video compression algorithms such as HEVC ( efficient caching and the right software bandwith usage would be greatly reduced.

    If this method would be in place providers could focus more in offering more bandwith than maintaining sattelites, and expensive cable services, and all the other infrastructure that runs along internet cables.

    I am not saying that this will happen overnight, but that this has a much higher chance than rokus, googleTVs, appleTV, its for sure.

    Because if intel does it properly there are true economical benefits to this strategy, which is the main cause to why nothing has being done with TV yet, because the current model works and is finantially viable. If intel manages to prove that this one is much better, operators will change.
  • Khato - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    What manner of online ads are you talking about though? The absolutely pathetic ads that you get with most all of the free streaming services? Those are indeed a joke and just go to show how much those content providers need an actual solution. (Who's to say that there wouldn't be a free subset of programming equal to what content providers currently offer but using this superior user experience/infrastructure Intel is supposedly putting in, of course that'd just be streaming to a browser/app not the dedicated hardware.)

    But no, the key advantage here with advertisements would be that they could be the same as what's normally on tv, but targeted to a specific set of parameters. aka, the hardware processes the images from the camera to see who's watching (note that I'd be extremely surprised if there was any possibility of it transmitting images, just the parameters it can gather from them.) It could technically even pause the show (and the commercials!) when the viewer gets up and moves out of view. A commercial that you know a targeted audience is watching is definitely worth something more than the system as it is today.

    And the real thing to keep in mind is that this is simply the way to get their foot in the door. Once the media conglomerates see the advantages of this model there's a lot more than can be done. Eventually might even be able to get rid of the commercials if willing to pay a bit more.
  • mrdude - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Targeted ads have been available since Google, Microsoft and others have been prowling our online behaviors. These "new" ads aren't new at all and they're something that the big content providers have had access to, and probably even used to some extent, for a while now.

    These ads aren't going to supplement the billions upon billions of dollars that they'd lose by providing a la carte programming. Ask Facebook :P
  • poorted - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I agree with this for the ads - yes, premium networks still need to be paid by subscription, but there is enough over the air programming that is entirely ad supported to show that that model works too.

    From the point of view of that broadcaster, why would they care if the viewers are watching over the air or over the internet if they are watching the same ads? In fact for that broadcaster, the internet route would even be preferable, they get targeted ads, and people can tune in from outside their transmitter range if they like.

    From their point of view, they get more viewers, more ad revenue, and better demographic information.
  • taltamir - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    People went to piracy because it supplied a better product, what people actually wanted.
    Netflix and hulu came in and gave people that same product.
    The IP owners are desperately clinging to their guns and many view netflix and hulu and the like as an enemy.

    The intel offering is basically netflix, only crappy. With the promise of new content. There is absolutely no reason netflix can't offer new content but the MPAA members don't want them to. Intel is trying to appeal to them with a tech that gives them that same measure of control and provides the same sub-par service that nobody actually wants to buy.
  • taltamir - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    " clinging to their guns" - should be clinging to their distribution models... I must have had something else on my mind Reply
  • Crono - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    ... At least it will for me. I don't want channel based subscriptions like cable companies provide, nor do I want a bundle of multiple services like existing streaming boxes.
    I just want the ability to select individual currently airing programs and internet content (podcasts and other episodic content) so I don't have to wade through reality shows. I don't want to see ads or commercials, either.

    Now if such an a la carte service were available even at a premium, I wouldn't hesitate to get it. I don't like cable TV anymore, I like being ble to watch documentaries, educational programming, and shows like Top Gear. Give me something like that and a good hardware/software device, Intel.
  • Krysto - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Only if we ignore that Intel has pretty much failed at anything that doesn't have to do with PC chips. They've only managed to create a relatively sustainable business in the SSD market, but they are not the best, nor the biggest there.

    The one who gets the smart TV market is not going to be a mostly hardware company. And just wait until you hear how much these Intel set top boxes are going to cost....that should wake people up to reality pretty fast.
  • poorted - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    True, unless their play is just to enter the market with awesome devices at reasonable prices but leverage all the cable companies to use their hardware. If they can get the TV market using their chips or standardized on x86 or whatever, then essentially they wouldn't care if their consumer offerings burn cash and fail, they'd have the bigger victory that they haven't been able to get in the mobile space. Reply
  • IanCutress - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Not sure how it entirely works in the US, but in the UK we all get five basic channels for free, two from the BBC (no ads) and three free-to-air (with ads). For a £20 one-off set top box we get Freeview, another 30 channels or so, all with adverts apart from the BBC ones. For a bit more you can buy a box with Freeview HD and Freeview+, allowing a DVR type of arrangement. To watch any BBC program broadcast in the past week, we get iPlayer, and ITV/C4 have content on their On-Demand services too.

    The only show(s) I watch religiously are Top Gear and Formula 1. Top Gear is BBC2, so covered by normal TV and iPlayer, and Formula 1 is in a weird flux where all the races are shown in full on a cable company (Sky), half the races are show in full on the BBC, and the other half are highlights-only on the BBC.

    The only other things I watch are usually BBC issued comedy - QI, Mock The Week, Have I Got News For You, or sometimes 8 Out Of 10 Cats on C4.

    At this point in time the only reason I'd ever want to pay £/month is for the Formula 1 races. Don't have time to sit and endlessly watch X or Y, and if it's a well reviewed program (Breaking Bad, Six Feet Under, House) I tend to get the DVD box set. There's also my video library backed up on PC which I can stream when needed.

    Any Intel TV venture would hit the US/North America first, so I wonder if a Europe launch would occur even within 12 months of that. Not that I have any need for it, unless it's a silly £10/month. But even at that price, my ISP will bundle in their cable TV service with my super fast internet connection (but it won't have Formula 1).

    IMO most 'live' content becomes less important as you age, the obvious exception is sport. I'm happy to catch most things 24hr+ after they air with an on-demand or catch-up service.
  • mrdude - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Hasn't this been tried many times before? with each previous suitor flatly denied by the big content companies?

    The reason these TV channels are packaged together is because they're all under a single network. For example, ABC (Disney) owns all 50 varieties of ESPN and other channels as well. If you want ABC's (read: Disney's) channels then you've got to sign up to the lot of them. This is a practice that's mimicked by the other companies, and that ultimately leads to a stranglehold on all things TV.

    While I appreciate Intel's goals here, and I do believe that a la carte TV and entertainment would be amazing, it's not going to happen unless those companies can compensate the decreased $$ per customer by volume. But considering the very small relative number of people who have cut the cord, this makes the entire scenario extremely unlikely.

    Then there's the other aspects of this to consider, like ads, pirating (YARRRR!!), web presence, and pricing.

    Furthermore, if this is going to be another one of these 'Intel only, everybody else go screw themselves' approaches with respect to hardware (again), then it's going to fail before it even starts. Intel's WiDi is an excellent example. It's a fantastic idea and really forward thinking, but the management decided to sell it with 'Intel only' and as a result it's gone nowhere, slipping inevitably closer to irrelevancy.
  • Porkfist - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    To be suitable for general consumption I'm certain this box will be very limited in it's capabilities. That being said, I would find it very difficult to abandon my HTPC in favor of a box that would limit my flexibility. I suppose I would buy in, only if you are not required to have their streaming box. If that was the case, then it would come down to price.

    I'm currently using XBMC, Windows Media Center with an HDHomerun and a Netflix subscription. I have everything I need. I would like to have some other stuff, such as HBO or Comedy Central but I don't need it. So give me the option to get that additional content, at a reasonable price, and let me roll it into my current setup. If you do that, you've got me hook, line and sinker.
  • Hubb1e - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Here's what I would like:

    Subscription services:
    ability to pick the individual channels I want to subscribe to with a high capacity DVR
    This would allow me to watch and record the shows that I am most interested in. I could get news live, I could watch stations like History or Food or the Kid's stations and not get ones I'm completely uninterested in like BET. I shouldn't be paying over $1200 a year for HDTV. That's ridiculous. $5 a channel would be fine with the local channels free. I see no reason to abandon the live TV with DVR model since it is easy on bandwidth but the current status quo of almost $100 a month for HD TV service is ridiculous.

    Then I want to augment this with a service like Netflix that serves up older content for a subscription. I can catch up on shows, watch older movies, etc.

    Pay per view
    Be able to pay $1 an hour to stream any TV show I want, live or archived. I can use this to watch shows on channels I may not have a subscription to. I can also use this to watch shows that I forgot to DVR but I won't pay $1 an hour to stream old content. I don't think I see any value in that. Netflix has kinda ruined that market with it's cheap subscription service.

    I'll also pay $1 -$3 to stream a recent movie. I do this now from Vudu but it doesn't make that much sense when Redbox is down the street and I can get that movie for $1. I also think that the current pricing system Vudu has for movie rentals doesn't make any sense. There should be a range of prices from $1 for C list movies to $3-4 for A list movies. This can also depend on how recently the movie was launched. Right now all movies on Vudu are far too expensive and cost the same regardless of how good they are. The movies should be priced according to their quality.

    And all this should be available on the same box. I shouldn't have to switch from my DVR to my BD player to my TV to find services that I want. I liked the idea of GoogleTV's unified search where you could search for your content and it offered you different services that had the same stuff. But I also want to be able to browse through my DVR and if there's a show I forgot to record or a similar show on another channel I don't get it could recomend that I stream that show for a price. I've got no problem with upselling if the service is seamless and user friendly.
  • chucky2 - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I know you said Intel isn't ready to talk about this yet, but, when the time comes, it'd be nice if Intel could comment on what kind of resolution support they'll be able to provide?

    1080p and lessor resolutions, obviously. But what about 4K? Or support for 8K? Or at least commit to supporting 8K via firmware update. Would be interesting to see if they're going to save bandwidth by having their new product take advantage of the new HEVC (aka H.265) codec, and regardless of that decision, what bitrates will the be offering.

    Intel could really come out ahead here and offer a solution that is able to integrate with Windows Vista/7/8/MacOS/Linux computers on the network and provide for streaming content on the multiple TV's in the house with content on the network, including allowing me to push via iPad or phone (iPhone, Android, Windows Phone all supported. Streaming from a NAS, also needs to be supported.

    I'm in for a couple of these if they can do it right and bring the high end quality that is lacking - and, with Intel's resources, that should be beyond easy as many devices already are coming close to this now.

  • jjj - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    You keep calling it a revolution but a revolution is much more than video. The industry is dysfunctional because regulators and legislators fail at their jobs and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.The internet infrastructure is also far behind what is needed but all this doesn't matter a revolution has to be much more. The TV itself is in danger of going extinct if there isn't a lot more done .A lot of TVs just sit there . Then again maybe when you say revolutionize the TV you aren't talking about TV but media delivery and that's another conversation.
    Anyway , Intel gets a new CEO soon so we might never see this service ,it's just not something that is worth it for Intel in the long run.
  • Termie - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link


    I appreciate your thoughts on this, and I do think that most of us would be on board with such a service, but I don't think we'll be seeing such an offering any time soon.

    I've had cable for six months over the past 15 years. I tried out Comcast HD in 2006 and then found I could get a better picture for free using an HD antenna. I just recently got a Comcast SD box because they forced me to take it to get the Blast cable internet service at a discount (50mbps). I plugged it in once to get it running, and then promptly unplugged it. I hate the idea of wasting 15w standby power for something that offers me the utility of a small electric heater. So I like your a la carte streaming idea.

    Here's the catch - a la carte just isn't going to work. The model that cable operators have used for a long time is to bundle a few high-quality channels that we'd all likely spend $5/month on (or maybe $35-40/month total), plus hundreds of other low-quality channels that a handful of people around the country might pay $5/month for, and then packaging it all into a $80-100/month bundle. There's money in that.

    There are simply too many channels currently for a majority of them to survive if we went with a la carte. The revolution that we need, unfortunately, is not on the hardware side, and that is why Intel will likely fail. It is on the programming side - we need to admit that we as a nation have become addicted to quantity over quality, and cut the lifeline to about 90% of the cable channels out there.

    And the only way that's going to happen is if people stop paying for cable TV and the cable operators start dropping content providers to lower costs. As long as companies like Comcast are making money hand over fist (and their purchase yesterday of the remaining assets of NBC Universal suggests they are), nothing is going to change.

    - Termie
  • Jaybus - Monday, February 18, 2013 - link

    The fact of the matter is that those channels should die if nobody wants to pay for them, yes? They are being kept alive by strategic bundling because the cable companies own much of this content. The question is will Intel be able to get a decent licensing deal for say Disney when Comcast owns controlling interest in Disney? Will they be able to get the content people want without being forced into also taking tag along baggage channels? Reply
  • pm - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I work for Intel, so I'm not going to comment about Intel's TV plans because I actually have no clue what my company is actually planning and I'll wait and see.

    But I can comment on me, and my comment is that I'm a lot like Anand. I cut the cord years ago - we've never had satellite and cable TV is just too expensive given how rarely we were using it. The monthly cost for basic cable locally is $50/month - $600/year is a lot of money to me. We have an over-the-air antenna, and I have a computer that I use as a DVR and for watching shows. We watch Colbert Report and The Daily Show pretty much nightly using their respective websites (or Hulu), and then I record over-the-air shows, and we watch the occassional PBS show like Downton Abbey and Nova (my wife is devoutly loyal to Downton Abbey.. and I watch it too). We get movies from Redbox at $1/each or, if I'm lazy, I'll buy a digital version on Amazon or iTunes.

    What I would really like is a system that is less kludgy than what I have now and I'm willing to pay more than I am right now for it. Right now I pay nothing to anyone except Redbox. I have Windows Media Center as a DVR, and that works ok with a remote, but then I have to get a keyboard (or mouse) out to get to Hulu, or PBS or wherever on the net. I have them bookmarked so it works ok. But it's all a hassle to change shows, the selection is pretty small overall (no Weeds, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones or any other premier shows for us).

    I am willing to pay something - like $20/month - but I want something that is better than what I am doing now. I have no idea if Intel can do that or not, or Apple, or any of the other companies that are rumored to be moving into this space. What I do know is that I'm looking forward to seeing what is coming because I'm not super thrilled with the system that I have working right now.
  • rohitp - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    "a service that contains the set of "everything I care about". Although I like basketball, I don't follow it religiously. I need the major networks, Comedy Central, perhaps the Food Network and one or two more. I need a smaller, targeted bundle."

    That is exactly what I want. The free to air channels with a couple or so more from the cable side as far as live TV goes. For other needs, as you mentioned, Netflix/Hulu/Amazon/Vudu works fine.

    I tried doing the online thing, but if it is not on TV then connecting the pc to the TV acts as an impediment to just pick up the remote and watch something.
  • cserwin - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    ESPN is the crux to the puzzle in the U.S. As soon as you can subscribe to ESPN, millions will cut the cord.

    I find for the $50 I was paying for Dish Netowrk, I can have Netflix and more Ituenes content than I can possibly watch.

    But I can't get ESPN.

    I like to get my content through legitimate channels. Hard to tell my kid about torrent streaming for live sports. Hope ESPN figures out a legitimate way for me to give them my money without having to subsidize an antique business model of content distribution.
  • bdunosk - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    What about Amazon Prime? It looks like most of the things I'd want off Netflix are available with Prime and I have the option to pay for a season of a show I like. Yeah, I can't watch that episode until after it airs... but I rarely catch a show when it's supposed to air and only care to watch a couple of shows. Reply
  • mrnuxi - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Disclaimer: I am a Netflix subscriber, but for DVD/BluRay only (i.e., no streaming).

    I would describe myself as near-audiophile/videophile. I have a really good sound system (with dual high quality subwoofers), a very good Oppo blu ray player, a Squeezebox Touch. I also still get DirecTV, though I really only use it for watching [Tivo'd] sports. When I listen to music I will never listen to lossy MP3s -- all my CDs are ripped to flac that can be streamed (via SB Touch [hacked at that] to my stereo system]. When it comes to movies, I watch preferably Blu Ray or else DVD, never streamed content from Netflix because I value the high quality. Perhaps you think me a snob, but I'm definitely not a golden ears/eyes.

    When streamed video content has the same quality (both video and audio) as the Blu Ray it came from I will be all for it. Until then, Intel would not have me for a customer.

    Now, I doubt I am a typical potential customer. If all their customers were like me, Apple would have gone belly up with iTunes, iPods etc catering to the MP3 crowd. It's funny -- for portable listening to music I use this inexpensive but vastly better than iPod combo:
    1. Sandisk Clip+ running RockBox software (with a 32gb mSDHC card containg flac-encoded files)
    2. FiiO E6 headphone amplifier (awesome for under $30)
    3. Various decent but not super-expensive headphones.

    Wonder how many of you Anandtech readers are like me ....
  • new-paradigm - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Ok, so I can understand how dvr is based on having live tv channels and a tuner.

    Whilst the omission of both dvr and tuner functionality may be fine for the US, where the tv market is pretty much only catered for by payed for cable services, over here in the uk, and many other parts of the world, there are actually very good freeview broadcasting services and channels.

    I think the lack of dvr and tuner functionality would be a big factor in its success in these markets.

    Personally the only reason I haven't plumped for a roku or similar, and am now looking to build a media center pc is because I want the dvr and tuner functionality as well as the catch-up and streaming internet based tv services.
  • new-paradigm - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    For example... in the uk this will be competing with youview (, a free dvr and catch up initiative, which has boxes on offer from nearly all major internet and tv providers, as well as stand alone boxes. This works with the freeview tv channels (about 70) which a lot of people have instead of paying for cable or sky. Reply
  • Exodite - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Somehow I can't help but think than any development along this line is going to end up being stillborn.

    Not because of content, or rather content /owner/, issues but rather by being too little too late.

    There's already YouTube, Google is currently monetizing the platform and I can only see services like that being the real future of television.

    The Internet and the WWW is a marvelous thing, we really don't need a new delivery system for a dying media platform when we already have something better.
  • new-paradigm - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I don't really see this as a new delivery system, merely an extension of the internet system and getting more content on to it... in the uk this is already happening as various mainstream channels start to make their content available through their own web based portals (iplayer, 4OD, etc) Reply
  • Midwayman - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    The media companies have repeatedly shut down previous attempts to get streaming media to the TV. Even streaming content they already offer on the web. They want eyeballs on adds and the whole industry has a titanic amount of inertia. They don't want to change their business model. Honestly Amazon or Netflix have a better chance of forcing it on them by producing original content that is only available streaming. If they take off as 'must have' channels and refuse to be bundled into cable they media companies might have to follow suit. Reply
  • CSMR - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    What is the current wholesale cost of downloading a GB?
    That will determine whether IPTV is successful.
  • fteoath64 - Saturday, February 16, 2013 - link

    It is not the cost in terms of money for downloads. It is the time delay wasted DOING IT so there is no interest from users. No instant gratification!. Click Buy and it plays right away!. If you have to wait, you might not bother!. If anyone subscribe to IPTV, they will be given a fat pipe period. Now how fat the internet pipe depends on the provider. They will restrict the bandwidth based on current pricing levels.

    IPTV can be successful only if people pay a fixed tier of bundle based on how much they use. A bit like cable-premiums channels now but if a user did not use much, he might just pay the minimum amount rather than a fixed premium every month. The old model habit is hard to die but usage based is the fairest of all, yet providers are not really doing it.
  • tcitrus - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I love Intel. I understand the concept. But what why would I change my current TV set up for Intel's box? I already have Playstation 3 with apps such as Hulu, Youtube, Crackle, and it is a blue ray player. I have Roku, which is very small and portable. On top of all that I have a Dish Network w/ DVR and includes Blockbuster. Why get another box? Convince me why I should switch. Reply
  • This Guy - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I'ld like the ability to run steam on it. If their OS is a derivative of their linux work this might be possible.

    I'ld like instant on and ssd like speed for the OS, settings and user data.

    I would like the UI to minimise upsells to a small and consistant part of the screen. The UI should focus on my content and make it eaiser for me to view/use it.

    I would love for Intel to get global content licences. I live in Australia where media is vastly overpriced. Many smaller markets have it far worse.
  • Concillian - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    The biggest problem faced with getting into TV is that the media companies own the pipes. They already restrict access in an effort to keep people from cutting the cord (very difficult to stream sporting events without buying a very expensive package, for example.)

    It doesn't matter what the hardware looks like. The block is getting the people who own the cable companies to give up their $100+ bundling strategy that is currently working and working well to milk the average consumer.

    Until we have viable broadband options that are NOT TV providers, I don't see this changing. Hardware doesn't matter. The whole landscape of big media needs major changes before anything like this can become viable.
  • sporkfan - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    The whole point of a device like this is that it can be sold to Comcast or other regional cable providers. They can start w/ bundled access to 100% of their content, introduce a la carte offerings, and then reduce expenditure on new content once their a la carte back catalog becomes as attractive/lucrative as channel #450.

    Just like the iPhone didn't disrupt cell providers, this isn't disrupting Comcast. Intel probably isn't even demanding that they have an disintermediated relationship with the customer. Comcast has proven that no one is taking a penny from them.

    Same for Apple - they might be able to disintermediate, but if Apple ships a real TV product, assume it will only work with a $100/month service fee. And assume we will continue to have broadband monopolies in DSL and Cable.
  • Azethoth - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I think you summed up what we as end users want. The small, exact set of channels of the shows we actually care to watch.

    I am using, or rather being used by, DirecTV at the moment.

    They force ridiculous bundles on me just so I get HD. I want to get more precise than the deluxe package but they do not let you do that at a cheaper rate, it actually costs more to get less.

    I have literally disabled 3/4 of all channels from showing up in my channel guide to reduce the clutter and it is still 90% useless channels.

    The cost benefit is so low that I have Zero customer loyalty. The very first person that succeeds at this, Apple, Google, Intel, whoever gets my business likely forever. Same way Apple likely has my mobile business forever, and definitely has my music business.
  • pliablemoosethebanned - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I cut the cord years ago, sick of paying for content I never used.

    Current system is a hodgepodge of streaming, Apple TV and a Roku Box, with subs to Netflix, Hulu +, and Amazon Prime to a 1080p projector, an LCD TV and various laptops/tablets/phones.

    I would love an a la carte cable system, and am likely going to be building a HTPC again so I can catch OTA HDTV and DVR it.

    I do like having the option to price shop any content I do purchase, and either Apple or Amazon has cheaper prices on a season of a show I buy.

    Big cable is one of the most anti consumer services available, screw the $100/month cable bill.
  • wsaenotsock - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    So cable companies are just going to bend over and let Intel distribute all their content? Yeah right!!! Think about sports broadcast licensing and other live events. If cable companies let that go they are DEAD. This is not going to be an easy fight. I don't see the difference between Intel's device and any other streaming device. It doesn't even matter because it's all about the licensing. Reply
  • bathotropic - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    "How far back you'll be able to catch up will depend on the content license, it's technically feasible to go back as far as you'd like - but not all content owners will allow it."

    Seriously, if I can't go back as far as I WANT then I'm not interested. Obama-Care is bad enough, but Cable/IP-Care is shit unless they acknowledge that I have limits.
  • jowaju2 - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    If all you want is Comedy Central / History Channel / Food Network, Dish has the Welcome package for $14.99 a month, or $19.99 a month with local channels. Here's the info on it, they don't advertise it, but it's exactly what I wanted; Reply
  • tackle70 - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Really enjoyed this read. I'm a cord cutter myself - my wife and I dropped a cable TV subscription for Netflix years ago and have never regretted it.

    The only TV content I'm interested in paying for is the major networks + the NFL. If Intel gives me that, I'm all in.

    Like you, I refuse to pay for content I don't use.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    This discussion has been great, thank you all for responding. What I'd like to see more of is how much you'd like to see a service cost and maybe specifics on what content you'd like included. I know personally it'd be an easy sell if we're talking about $20/month for the content that I'm currently missing from Netflix. I have no idea whether or not that's realistic/feasible, but that's a number that I'd be comfortable with - what about everyone else?

    There's a healthy amount of skepticism as to whether or not Intel can pull this off, but what I'm more interested in is having a blueprint to be able to give to Intel or anyone else who tries to go after this market so they know what needs to be done to succeed.

    Take care,
  • tackle70 - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I'd probably pay up to $10-20/month to get the major networks as long as it included the NFL and didn't black the games out.

    I can't see myself paying more than $20/month for TV under any circumstances, though. I compare the value to Netflix, and when I only pay $8-10/month for Netflix and all the content there, there's nothing on TV to convince me it is worth more than double that amount.
  • pandemonium - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    If Intel can help destroy the traditional cable company model, I'm all for it. Paying for television with commercials has become all but history to me.

    Netflix revolutionized the industry already. If this service is provided without commercials I'd consider it. F*** commercials and the horse their marketeers rode in on.
  • trip1ex - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I don't see Intel doing much in this space. What experience do they have with UI? Storing content on servers? Designing hardware outside of chips? talking to content companies?

    Apple is in a way better position. Google too. And MS even.

    And the problem has always been one of changing the entrenched cable/satellite broadcast system model that content distributors are comfortable with and are afraid to move away from.

    Cord cutting doesn't make much sense for families of four although pricing varies depending on where you love.

    First the single person it makes much more sense in general although as always it depends on how much tv you watch.

    I am fine with the price of cable for my family. I just would like a better interface/equipment to access the content cable delivers. WMC ain't bad but it ain't being supported any more. It has annoying bugs. The cable company's box has a Ma Bell feel to it that comes hand in hand with having little to no competition. TiVo was decent but have gone backwards since the Series 2 came out. The cable companies are too strong for them to compete.

    Yes I would like a little more flexibility in the packages. But for the most part an expanded basic package covers my needs.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    This is very interesting. I feel like the UI/hardware/experience is an easier problem for Intel to solve, pricing may be the more difficult one.

    Anyone else feel like pricing is ok and it's just the UI/UX that needs work?
  • teiglin - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    It's an interesting point, but hardly an insurmountable one for a company like Intel. The issue of getting TV via a computer UI is hardly new and there are many people they could get (or may already have) to handle this well, if they are smart. I just posted my general thoughts below, but for a lot of people within my age range (I'm 29), the issue is that cable starts at $50/month for almost nothing that isn't already available for free and goes up rapidly from there, easily into the $200 range if you want everything. Certainly many people can and do pay that, but as a single-income household of four, I'm happy to pinch my Benjamins and subsist free of subscription content.

    Anyway, the UI is obviously important and they do need to nail it--this point definitely deserves to be hammered home--but for me at least, they would need to be significantly better than cable in a number of ways to justify even a fraction of cable's cost. Flexibility combined with a smart pricing (and even bundling) scheme is definitely one that would help draw me in.
  • mrdude - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    The lack of a proper UI and capable cheap hardware aren't the reasons that this hasn't taken off, Anand. If a company, namely a big content/ISP provider, were to decide to follow through with this (and likely on their own), the UI and hardware would be the least of their concerns.

    As for pricing, it'd have to be significantly cheaper considering you're also paying for the bandwidth (and you'll need more of it) on top of the service provided. I'd pay ~20-30$ for something that provided me with HBOGO, popular sports programs (Fox Soccer, *some* ESPN, and NBA TV, BEin Sports), the local over-the-air channels, and a few others like BBC, Science, and Comedy Central. If it can't tick most, and preferably all, of these boxes then it's a no-go. If it did tick all of them, I reckon ~$30 is fair.

    The UI/software is a bigger issue than it seems at first. If it's very fragmented like it is now with Amazon, Google, Hulu, Netflix, and HBO all having their own separate services, it's unlikely to succeed from a consumer standpoint. Some sort of unification is going to be required, and the software will have to be designed from the ground up to reflect that endeavor. For example, there's going to have to be a step away from the "Click here for Netflix content," and rummaging through only Netflix . If a device is going to succeed, it'll have to have a search/filtering approach that unifies the content, not by provider but by the content itself. That also requires stepping on more toes.
  • fteoath64 - Saturday, February 16, 2013 - link

    @trip1ex: Your points are spot on!. This means Intel did NOT invest in R&D or not enough to show what they really have to date. It seems they always seem to start from scratch and do not seem to have stamina to go the distance. Trying to outsmart the cable companies is not a good idea, buying a few of them might!. Intel has the means but does it have the WILL to do it. All things to date do not indicate so. Intel could do a completely nice piece of hardware with software tuners to record 10 channels if you so wish, provided you have a NAS to store these and if done in some proprietary format that PCs cannot decrypt then they would have a form of copy-protection. They need to show rather than say this and not seem to do it. Their STB was promising and it seems to have faded over the years ...

    As for content packaging, there is a lack of head-end system/solution that can give any combination and any duration on an almost realtime basis. If there is one, they will offer it. Here is a chance to provide a content provisioning system with gated delivery that Intel could so. If more of that can be dump into hardware chips, then good. Most IPTV solutions have a limited provisioning system to offer packages, so that limits what they can offer.
  • JeBarr - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    Keep dreaming.

    Idea ownership will prevent it.

    While I will agree that old business model of content distribution and big players in entertainment industries need major changes for the dream to be realized, the fundamental causes are deeper than most would be willing to admit to.

    Everyone involved is paying room full of lawyers to kill your dream and mine.

    The revolution required to bring about such a change comes with a high cost. Too high for most.
  • chaoticlusts - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    This sounds brilliant, although I don't think I'll be seeing it where I live (Australia). Hell I'd love to sign up for netflix/hulu plus but they won't let me without running a proxy service, granted that's gotten easier in the past year but it leaves you in this odd situation of hacking a service to give them money because they can't sell it too you directly which obviously means a lot of people simply opt to pirate (You hear a lot of 'well if they don't want our business...')

    But yes if this service launched in Aus for a price like you talked about on the final page I'd happily sign up, however that would mean Intel had sorted out the licencing nightmare we have over here which I'm not optimistic about. I'd definitely want some way to locally store things I watched even if that required tying it into some odd DRM so that if there was a licencing dispute between Intel and the production company they could remove stored content, however only if they were selling it as a purely 'streaming' service and any local content was purely 'cached'. Saving in bandwidth via something like that would be a huge selling point.
  • teiglin - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    Before I add my 2c, I just want to make a request for you to stop contributing to the widespread misuse of the phrase "to beg the question"--it's actually a rhetorical fallacy in which an argument for a point uses that point as an assumption. What you mean when you wonder whether Intel's cash is behind the issue is that it *raises* several questions; it does not beg them.

    Grammar pedantry aside, I haven't had cable since 2005 when I finished college. My folks still have it and pay somewhere just shy of $200 to Time Warner for a internet, a handful of premium channels (HBO and Showtime I think) as well as maybe a digital sports add-on package. To me, that's just highway robbery, as I have no time filling the my fairly-limited TV time with free content either over the air or on the internet. The few shows I watch regularly are available for free on the internet, and viewing beyond that is easily satisfied with the occasional season/series purchase either of optical discs (which promptly get ripped) or from Amazon (I'm not a Prime subscriber though it's tempting); these purchase options are particularly effective for my five year-old son, who is able to watch a given show many, many times without tiring of it. I've considered Netflix but we just don't have enough time to spend in front of the TV to really make it worth it.

    I'd probably be willing to pay on the order of $20-30 a month to get the 2-5 shows I'm interested in at any given time, if they are a) downloadable, and b) available in legitimately high quality--say 12Mbps x.264 at a baseline. Given that mechanical storage is finally more or less recovered from the Thai floods (say $.04/GB? haven't actually bought a hard drive since 2010), there's no reason not to devote disk space on an HTPC or other NAS to improve seeking performance and general convenience. There's really no reason to be forced to suffer buffering on a paid service, and this is one of the primary things that keeps me away from current services like Hulu Plus and Netflix. I frankly don't hold out any hope that content providers will ever allow this, though I don't see how offering legitimate downloads can do anything but reduce piracy at this point. Not having an official download available certainly doesn't seem to have stemmed piracy, in any case.

    The final thing I'll add is that there is one more viewing paradigm that is relevant to my household, if not to me personally, and that is actual live TV viewing. My wife likes to just have the TV on, especially for the morning shows, but this is perfectly well-satisfied with the already-hooked-up antenna, so it doesn't factor into the cost equation.
  • tat tvam asi - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    John McCain and Kevin Martin's initiative to pry open and unbundle the channels
    <a href=" served a la carte</a>
  • tat tvam asi - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    correct link:
  • Cometer - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    The problem is, this guys don't get it. All of them.
    It's a box for this. A box for that. A new TV with this small new feature that costs $1000 more.
    People are tired of wasting money in stuff that doesn't do anything special in the end.
    Right now I see one way and one way alone to "revolutionize" the TV.
    And that is a single product that merges gaming+media streaming+internet
    For instance, a gaming console with an open app store that completely integrates with your TV. Similar to Google TV but without content maker restrictions.
    Similar to Xbox/PS3 in terms of being powerful enough to make people want to buy the console for games alone. And with enough horsepower to become the home media server (Mac Mini with Plex comes to mind).
    People will buy the console to play games, but if the integration with the TV is good, they'll get hooked and people will start buying this consoles to be the "brains of the TV".
    On top of this, all other devices in your home, tablets, smartphones, PCs, they need to be able to remotely control this device.
    Obviously part of the secret is in building an interface that is easy to use and that grabs attention.

    Unfortunately I know how the industry works and I'm not seeing this happening any time soon.
    If Sony was smart they could sign an agreement with Google and release a PS4 that runs on Android and has access to the Android ecosystem.
    Since next-gen consoles are very similar to high-end PCs, they could even work as a pretty powerful media server.
    Your console could record your TV programs. IT would integrate with the program guide and send notifications to your phone when your favourite show is about to start.
    From your phone you could hit the notification and an app would open where you could choose if you wanted to record the show or live stream it to your phone.
    I could go on and on.
    One last thing. The true success of the first iPhone was that Apple managed to merge the phone+ipod+internet into a single easy to use device.
    Same needs to be done to "revolutionize" the TV.
  • Zanegray - Saturday, February 16, 2013 - link


    As a college student I completely agree and as far as our generation is concerned the TV box is dead. Completely. I will never buy a single box for a single purpose. What I want is a service I can subscribe to that is better than Netflix that lets me stream to whatever device I want. I already have the hardware why do I need to buy more. The issue perhaps is the DRM and hence why Intel is going custom as Amand mentioned.
  • pzs_80 - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    The subject header says it - im wondering why we havn't seen powerfull SOC's in TV sets, able to decode 1080p video, use apps and browse the web?

    The smart TV experience is horrible as it is today - the cost of these chips would be a miniscule addon to the price of an already pricy TV.
  • Pheesh - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    If I recall boxee box was originally going to use the Tegra3 but switched to intel's CE SOC for performance reasons. logitech's revue and google tv used the same intel SOC which pretty much enables the above, although that's a few generations old and this new offering likely trumps it performance wise. Reply
  • FITCamaro - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I'd be happy just seeing high quality 720p streaming. Far less bandwidth required, still looks good on 1080p screens. Reply
  • beginner99 - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    Besides the fact that it will probably be years before this is available outside of US, I don't see it. The ultimate limitations come from the copyright limitations and those can't be magically ignored.

    Yes, it would be great to be able to view at any time a 5 year old episode or whole season of your favorite series without needing to have my own copy. But I doubt that is possible and even more so without commerical breaks and the possibility to fast forward. Also if your internet connections breaks you are f*****.

    So having your own copy be it legal or not just offers way to many advantages over this.
  • Gunbuster - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I won’t be holding my breath waiting for Intel to produce excellent software for this endeavor. They can barely do a passable video driver control panel. Reply
  • Hrel - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    Streaming 1080p is good, but it doesn't have to be 10MBPS. I play a 90 minute movie that totals 2GB and I play the uncompressed file that's 30GB and I see now difference at all. I think it incredibly stupid. I want the smallest file sizes possible at a given resolution; so long as it looks good. Which, as I stated, it looks great at 2GB.

    I'd prefer a model where you cut out the middle man. Just give us a platform for content creators to sell directly to customer. UFC sets it's own price, House sets it's own price, Dexter, How I met your mother, so on and so forth. That way people can pick and choose what they want. Just give us a platform for these content creators to deliver the content on. Choose any 10 for 10/month. Choose any 20 for 18/month. Shows never air year-round, so it would have to be monthly. I'm not paying or their holiday vacation where they stop filming. Offer entire back catalogues for cheap, 5-10 bucks. Then you own it, stream it, download it, edit it; whatever you want cause it's YOURS!

    Personally I don't really care about live content. I'm always doing other things when live stuff happens. The one exception to this is MMA; but now days there's way too much of that for me to catch it all live. I'd probably have Bellator and UFC as live content and just have back catalogues for everything else. In general I prefer to watch shows all at once anyway, rather than one episode/week. For example when I got into Dexter I watched 5 seasons over a few days, perhaps a week. That's how I like to consume tv shows, I don't want to wait for new episodes. Even when I do get caught up I just ignore that series until at least another entire season has come out.
  • Shadowmaster625 - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    Only stupid and lazy people have any use for such a ridiculously large cable tv bill. For the price you pay you can have a netflix subscription, and buy over a dozen seasons of your favorite tv shows each year. Who the heck watches even that many tv shows? Or alternatively you could rent 4 movies a week. Or half a dozen tv series and 2 movies a week, plus whatever is on netflix. It makes no sense. Yet people still shell out $60,$80,$100, even $150 a month for cable tv service. It makes absolutely no sense what so ever. Those people ar ejust lazy and think they have money to burn but that kind of money doesnt stick around forever. In this new economy it is on the top of the poop list if you know what I mean. There is no future for content in those quantities. Reply
  • crimson117 - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    <quote>I had the opportunity to speak with Erik Huggers</quote>

    aka The Scarecrow.
  • justmy02 - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link


    I'm glad you raised this issue. Like you and many others who have commented here, I dropped my cable subscription years ago, with no regrets. I tried Netflix for a while, and it's reasonably priced for what it offers, but the wait for content is far too long. Amazon Prime is also a good deal, but has limited selection. As you are obviously aware, nearly every content channel suffers from such limitations. I know it's a faux pas to discuss it openly here, but there's one channel with none of these problems: Usenet.

    While it's perhaps unfair to make the comparison, it's a realistic one. At the end of the day, paying a cable provider, Hulu, or any of the others for new programming is irrational under current market conditions. There are a few exceptions, such as live sporting events, but many of those are broadcast for free. While one can make a case for Netflix as a means of easily accessing older material, it's no contest for anything recent. I'm sure the content industry would prefer it to be otherwise, but this is the situation in the real world. For an official content channel to win the real value comparison, it will have to offer something similar to the Netflix model, only without restrictions on time of release. When I can get all the music, movies, and television shows ever made for a flat monthly fee, I'll gladly pay it (within reason; it would have to be well below $100/month). Until then, these companies are living in a world of fantasy.

    Intel might be able to get a foothold in the current ecosystem, but I'm skeptical. After all, even Apple has failed at negotiating satisfactory deals with content owners. I applaud Intel for moving forward with this; they may develop some useful infrastructure improvements that facilitate the solution to come. That said, the cable companies and the studios will not allow meaningful innovation until large populations are fed up with the dominant business model. Cord-cutters may be common on these forums, but they remain rare overall.

    If I have a simple message for Intel, it is the following: Treat this division as a research investment, not to be held to the profitability standard of other units. When the existing market structure collapses, they might be in position to fill the void. Until then, greed, lawyers, and contracts are in the way, and even mighty Intel can't change that.
  • RandomUsername3245 - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    My big problem with Usenet is that it is illegal, and the Usenet services can easily tie your IP address to the content you download. TV shows are just not worth the risk of a lawsuit or criminal conviction. (I also think TV shows are generally not worth their price as I cut the cable 5 years ago and am not going back.) Reply
  • RandomUsername3245 - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I'll be shocked if Intel can do more than the current players: unlimited streaming of old content for a fixed monthly fee (Netflix), pay-per-view new content (Vudu, Netflix, Xbox, etc), and a few limited episodes from the current season (Hulu Plus). They will not have ESPN networks, and they will probably not have the premium channels. The cable industry is an entrenched monopoly / oligopoly. They have *no* motivation to allow a new competitor access to their media content.

    Also, you guys desperately need to tie these discussion threads into the anandtech forums. It's next to useless actually trying to keep up with a discussion in these under-article comments. I think Arstechnica does this, though I bet it would be a bit change to the website / forums codebase!!
  • Jumangi - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    The pie in the sky dreams continue. Apple has been trying to pry open this content door for years with no success along with others and no success. Unless Intel is willing to throw massive amounts at the content providers they are not going to break with the cable and satellite companies.

    I truly believe what Netflix is doing by starting to make their own content is how this will ultimately happen, not current cable shows on 'Internet TV' packages. The old Hollywood guard just can't bring themselves to change.
  • will2 - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    What I and a few friends want is not a tradional TV, but a small multipurpose mediastreamer box (running perhaps Android or Ubuntu) that can accept input from a TV-Tuner stick, media selected from a USB drive, SD slot, WiFi, Ethernet, and deliver the stream to a big screen Monitor and/or sound-system, either by HDMI, or WiFi. (maybe Miracast).

    The UI can be from a smartphone or dedicated wireless 'remote'. That way, the USER is in control and has flexibility to freely to watch or listen to material on screen(s) & loadspeakers in ANY room, without having to move the streamer box. Non of that frustrating 'can't watch here', or problems of not all of the media is connected.
  • will2 - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I meant to add, my idea of a Smart TV, it is just another service in a 'home network' that can select/view content from the internet (be it ADSL or 3/4G), that can also monitor a home security video/alarms, i.e the 'internet of things' that Intel, MS & Google mention about once a year.

    That way, as you move from room to room, much as you switch on a light, you can interact with the 'Smart TV' and where any intruder detection can overide the screen content with video of the intruder.
  • sotoa - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I like using Hulu since they have the shows that I miss when they go live. The quality and audio is ok. Just don't like how I have to wait 1 WEEK after the show went live to see it. I need Hulu plus for that, but I understand the business aspect (fine). But boost the audio and video quality too please! Want 5.1 audio?... I'd pay extra.

    Here's a problem I see with online ads (Hulu for example). I answer their questions about "Does this ad pertain to you?" and they are NOT tailoring the ads to me. I'm subjected to tampon and girly ads, but I'm a guy! You'd think that after using Hulu for years, that they would "know" me. Hence their ads fall on my deaf ears. I do give them credit for finally making the ads more high def rather than the horrible visuals we used to be.

    Basically, these companies delivering entertainment need to figure out how to sell their ads and therefore will be more profitable. Then they need to be able to give us tiers of quality (visual & audio), plenty of choices of content, and be able to watch it from any device.

    I hope Intel's device (box) would be far far superior than these dinky boxes that cable companies give (Cablevision, Timewarner, Comcast, etc). These boxes burn so much electricity, are slow, and break a lot.
  • andrewaggb - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I'm really only interested in specific content. Not 'channels', bundles, and other garbage that is forced on us.

    I would like to be able to pick specific current tv shows and sports teams that I'm interested in and be able to watch them as close to live (sports) or as soon as available (tv shows).

    PVR's are useless if you can just watch what you want when you want it.

    But I'm in Canada so I don't expect anything to come of this because we're totally screwed by our providers and our market is a secondary market at best.... sigh.
  • Exelius - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    There is absolutely, positively no way that something like this will ever happen.

    The problem is simply distribution. Current cable/satellite video programming is distributed via what is essentially a hybrid unicast/multicast system that multicasts the most popular networks and unicasts the less popular ones. The cable companies don't do this because they hate you and want to force you to watch what they want you to watch. I mean, not that they don't want that, but that's not why multicast video exists.

    Multicast video exists because of the last mile problem: cable is effectively one huge shared pipe for everyone in your neighborhood. So they take most of that pipe and allocate it to cable TV, which your cable box then decrypts based on what channels you've paid for. Then they take that huge pipe and allocate the rest of it for internet traffic: that's right, everything you do on the internet is broadcast to everyone in your neighborhood (albeit encrypted.)

    Multicast streams drive down the effective bandwidth usage per user while watching video. If 1,000 people in an area are watching an uncompressed HD stream at 10 Mbps, their effective usage per viewer is 10kbps for an HD stream. Take those same 1000 people and switch even 10% of them to watching a 1Mbps compressed HD stream, and suddenly your effective usage per user jumps to 110kbps per user. A 10% shift in viewing patterns resulted in a 1000% jump in bandwidth usage per user for *the exact same activity*. You can do some things with multiplexing and line filters to alleviate this; but the problem doesn't really go away.

    This is why we, in the US, will not have this type of a-la-carte cable service in the near future. Companies are working to replace last-mile broadcast networks like cable with fiber optics, but it's expensive and will take at least a decade (probably two or three) to complete. Because cable is a last-mile broadcast network, it almost requires a multicast solution to video consumption.

    This is MUCH more of a structural problem than the media gives it credit: I would love to see a reputable tech site really dig in to how utterly incompatible the vision we all have of how video should work is with the technical reality of the broadband industry in the US today.

    More on the topic of this article, I really just don't get what Intel is doing here. They are a company who has traditionally sold technology products through channel sales to OEM technology manufacturers. Now they're trying to be a middleman between consumers and media companies? What does Intel think they have that everyone else doesn't? Why would they be more successful here than Apple or Microsoft? The key barrier in this market is not technology, it's content rights and consumer marketing. Neither of those are things Intel has any experience with. I get diversification, but I think they're too late to the game for that.
  • Death666Angel - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I don't quite think the smartphone analogy works. Whereas the state of smartphones was similar all over the world, I feel like TV is a very different beast on other countries. I know for example that German Pay TV is really struggling. People just don't want to pay for TV here. I personally use TV for a few news shows. But I got my actual content by buying the DVDs/BDs of shows and movies I like. I'm not behind my friends either, because they wait for the localization of the stuff while I watch it in the original. I spend a good deal on that, but it's different than something like a cable subscription you describe. I own these BDs/DVDs, I can do all sorts of things with them. With subscriptions, once I cancel, I don't own anything anymore. I love re watching older stuff. Or catching up on the old season before the new one comes out. I don't think I'd be in the market for anything Intel can offer. And I don't see many of my friends there either. Reply
  • ajlueke - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    Currently, my fiance and I watch most of our TV through DVR means. We watch enough current content to make cable worth the investment, but not necessarily on the exact hour or day that the programs air.

    For me, the Xbox 360 already provides an all in one TV experience when paired as an extender with a PC outfitted with Ceton tuner. On the Xbox, I can watch Netflix, or stream live TV or any recorded programming over the home network. Also, with the My movies plug-in on the main PC, I can stream any DVDs ripped as .VOBs to the Xbox as well, giving me access to all my content on all TVs. The ability to schedule recordings with Cetons handy phone app is a nice bonus as well. The only content I do not have access to on a satellite TV are my .ISO blu-ray rips.
    Of course, only the main TV has a full surround system and larger screen, making it the only location that I really would watch blu-ray content. With this setup, I pay Charter $120 a month for telvision (including Showtime/HBO) and 30mbps internet. I don't really have access to my content on mobile devices, but I do not really consume TV content on the go anyway.

    The only streaming service that has so far caused be to stray from the model above, are apps like HBOGo. I am already paying for HBO, but the app, which is free to subscribers, allows to to essentially watch any HBO program anytime/anywhere. I haven't been buying HBO programming on DVD or recording it on the DVR, as the HBOGo app is updated so regularily and all the programming is available, so I really haven't found it necessary.

    I would love to see TV itself essentially broken down in this way. You pay for subscriptions for the channels you want, and you get access to all their programming via an app. Sadly, I realize this model works well for premium channels, but less so content that is funded through advertising.

    As far as Intel creating a single box for all my content, it already exists as far as I'm concerned. The Xbox provides a link to my live TV/DVR on my PC, Netflix or Hulu Plus access, as well as HBOGo access and the ability to stream all the DVD .VOB disc content that resides on my PC via the My Movies transcode feature.
  • just4U - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    Your internet provider has leverage. Typically their also the company you get your Cable TV from. They will fight back.. we see it with Netflix as they try to take their slice of the pie from you in usage fees per gig. High quality streaming at fast rates would add up fast and our greedy monopolies are going to do their best to make you pay one way or the other.
  • annerick - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    Anand, Thank you for another informative article.

    For years we've received our content over the air (OTA), and via Netflix disks. OTA gives us high source quality networks including NBC, CBS, ABC, CW, PBS, and FOX. Netflix disks are the perfect complement with high source quality series and movies not available OTA.

    During dozens of sales calls from cable/satellite, I've asked the same question: "What is the minimum fixed cost for pay per view?" The answers are always ridiculous because one must buy some mid level of service.

    To answer your question about cost, "pay as you go" is what I want--access to a wide variety of content with no commitments. I would pay up to about three dollars an hour for desirable content. I might spend $100 in an active month which would be OK as I would have chosen what, and when, to watch.
  • jnolen - Friday, February 15, 2013 - link

    I would like to see two things come from this and both relate to customizing content by subscriber.
    First, I'd like the ability to subscribe, monthly, to specific networks/channels I want. Between the wife and I, if we could pick up the ESPN family, HGTV, DIY, Food, CBS, NBC, and ABC we would be happy. $5/channel or something like that in many cases would be great.
    Second, I would love to see more widespread package programming. We love sports and want to see more targetted packages like, NBA, for specific events/groups of events like the playoffs. I do not watch the NBA much but when the playoffs start I want to watch every single one.
  • YouWish - Saturday, February 16, 2013 - link

    I think I'm ready to go BACK to cable/satellite. This whole Intel thing smells like an epic fail for entertainment lovers. For casual viewers it might be cool but for entertainment enthusiasts who watch tons of movies, shows and sports, I can't see it working at all.

    I'm a big-time show watcher on TV and all this Hulu and Intel nonsense doesn't work for someone like me. I need live channels, channel surfing, sports in 1080p and everything at my fingertips. I miss having a TV experience and Fios, Time Warner, Directv, etc I miss having. Unless a cheaper internet experience can replicate that, it'll never work. It'll be Hulu's cousin that may fare better than Apple TV, but nobody really cares. I don't even know anybody that pays for Hulu Plus or Apple TV, but I know everyone who has cable or satellite.

    Unless Intel can give me true a la carte programming, then it's a no-go. And it'll never happen, sadly, which is why downloading all of my fav shows for FREE is the best option and works for me. Hulu Plus? Why? Netflix? Why? Intel? Why? Exactly.
  • fteoath64 - Saturday, February 16, 2013 - link

    Intel has been addressing this market on all the wrong ways!. They need to target the HIGH-end like doing 4K and 8K transcoding. Allow for either real-time transcoding or pre-transcoded for selected bit-rates of access while maintaining high-quality in the display. They ought to be doing video processing co-processors doing 4K/8K for the studios and drip-feed them downwards. To offer or do STB business, they are heading in the same old thing with a huge disadvantage, they cannot win there (as they have tried). The others are not standing still either. Head-end /server end transcoded content to feed smaller pipes yet giving superb quality is what users are after. This is where "brute-force" cpu/gpu power is needed. Also for users to do "video cleanup" using their c-processors would be very useful in many home instances. Otherwise, it will become a niche market like small-time video processing shops doing this using AMD oct-cores crunching for hours on end. Or end high end i7 cores for that matter.
    At the same time, doing position independing and speaker dependent voice input would be very useful. Yeah, they need to develop special microphones (array mic) and software to zoom into the speaker who maybe moving with background music etc. It is something people dream about in home systems control.
  • HisDivineOrder - Saturday, February 16, 2013 - link

    I think Intel could do something truly amazing here. Or it could be nothing. There's too little info to really judge the matter. I mean, we don't have device specifics, we don't have infrastructure specifics, we don't have content specifics, and we don't have their real intentions specifics, either.

    In short, we don't have specifics on any front and so it's hard to come to any rational conclusion about something we know next to nothing about.

    I'm a cord cutter. I don't see the point in having a cable TV connection AND a data stream connection. Or a voice line AND a data line. I think these things should be one thing. One data stream fully dedicated to data that also provides data that includes current TV content (like Netflix basically). Voice should be a usage of the data stream, not its own beast. SMS should be a part of the data stream, not its own beast.

    But these companies who we've entrusted to do this for us for many years are afraid of becoming dumb data providers as data providers can be replaced and it can be argued they don't need monopolies as much as they once did. Especially if users are eager to have lower prices with little perceived reason to want to stay with one specific carrier/ISP/cable company.

    That's why they've done everything they can to prevent this future Intel seems intent on pursuing. They've 1) destroyed any chance of municipal-based competition (even self-sustaining ones) through cronies in the court systems and legislative bodies in the states, 2) locked down their monopoly status via the same cronies, 3) enacted ridiculous service caps that they say is to guarantee service quality but in fact ensures record profits every single year they say they are struggling to keep up, and 4) own many of the content companies.

    Comcast owns NBC/Universal (the content maker), NBC (the network), and MSNBC (24/7 news as they see it). Time Warner Cable is connected with Time Warner who owns Warner Brothers (the content maker), The CW (the network they co-own with Viacom), and CNN (24/7 news as they see it). News Corp owns 20th Century Fox (the content maker), Fox (the network), and Fox News (24/7 news as they see it). That's to say nothing of all the magazines and other assorted crap each of them owns and dominates.

    These companies have been slowly sliding their pieces together to ensure it's all locked down. Nice and neat. They don't have to kill the Intel venture outright with cronies. They can just starve it slowly of content.

    Btw, a special hand of applause for Meredith Baker. She helped grease the wheels for NBC/Universal being owned by Comcast. Four months after she voted yes, she retired from the FCC and got herself a great, new job that pays a lot better. Guess who gets the job AND free high end cable package with the best internet! I bet she has no caps and programming for the rest of her natural life, too! I imagine she'd also get her own private Comcast customer service rep to help her out any time the connection goes down. 30 pieces of silver sure is provided in odd ways today...
  • don_k - Saturday, February 16, 2013 - link

    What do Apple, Google and Intel all have in common? They all want to launch or have already launched products in the TV space. They all want to provide an alternative to buying subscription TV. They all have licensing issues because the content license owners are also the channel owners.

    That it is possible and has been possible for years to provide the kind of service we all want, streamed to any device at high bitrates as soon as it is launched is a known fact. Yet, it does not exist. Is there not demand for it? The fact that consumers are looking elsewhere for what they cannot get is indication enough of demand. Yet again, nothing will happen. The content license owners will meddle with half there 'solutions', insisting on the consumer signing up to many different services with different clients, UIs and content, bolted on restrictions as to when, where and how they can watch content.

    Meanwhile having a solution that gives you all of these things is a reality for many people, as long as they do it themselves.
  • mr2kat - Sunday, February 17, 2013 - link

    Intel tried very hard to sell media processors to the BBC, and to put it politely Erik's organization poured derision, scorn and rejection on Intel's offerings. So you have to wonder what genius in Intel though Erik was a good prospect to pick up the remnants of Digital Home.

    IP TV is an idea that was fine - some either years ago. It's just the latest in a series of incredibly ill considered ideas from Intel that date all the way back to VIIV and their Widget Channel. But why is it stupid? Well let me give you some context here. Comcast and other Cable or Satellite companies, have a long history with media producing companies ranging from the big TV channels to the TV and movie studios. This gives them a great deal of credibility when negotiating contracts, terms and conditions. Intel, on the other hand, has absolutely none. Not even with Erik of the BBC at the helm.

    So why would you want IP TV anyway, and why would you want to fork out money for Intel's expensive and rather poorly designed silicon? By contrast I can buy, or rent, the latest Comcast box that does everything that IP TV does... and a whole load more. Best of all the media is already there and waiting. Now I can have TV anywhere in my house, delivered over IP or other in-home technologies. I can record as many TV channels as I like and increasingly with the headless architecture I can get the programming I want, when I want. That's a VERY hard act for IP TV to follow.

    So IP TV will appeal to people who don't have cable or satellite and who do not receive their high speed internet through cable. Within this ever shrinking domain, IP TV will appeal to people who don't watch or want to watch a huge amount of premium content or premium TV in particular. Outside of a bunch of 3rd world and developing countries, that isn't a huge market.

    One of the big problems with Intel is their fundamental business model, which is to give the customer what they are asking for. Now this sounds obvious and right, and indeed it is. However the media world is dynamic and complex; to play in their market you must understand where the market is headed and where it is going to be in five years time or more. To those of us who Know (rather than guess) the Cable world had adopted a leadership role in IP TV and beyond. But I remember the day, with utter horror, when I listened to senior Intel management deciding to suspend Cable validation to focus on Smart TV and IP TV. It was, to put it politely, demoralizing.

    The problem is that Intel has spent a huge amount of money of SoC for media with no real hope of turning a profit. To a large extent they missed out on the mobile revolution which they could so easily have dominated. Even in media processors, they failed to realize that most of the memory and much of the peripheral silicon should've been integrated to their SoC. They failed to appreciate the market potential of their own SoC solutions in diverse markets. They've had a dozen smart car projects on the drawing board but nothing that gelled (again because the decisions had absolutely nothing to do with what the market would want and expect in five years time). So let's hope that out of all this trying they finally get something right. But news flash! IP TV is a niche market. At best.

    Please Intel, wise up. The ARM architecture needs some work because it doesn't scale as well as it should (and could) and because its real-time model is similarly flawed. You could fix all of that and deliver the best, lowest powered ARM solutions in the world. And flatten everyone. But you need to put your pride aside and do the right thing. Please.
  • mr2kat - Sunday, February 17, 2013 - link

    Sorry, I am dyslexic. Mean to say "some eight years ago". Not "either years ago". Adjust your sense of reality accordingly as I probably made other typos in this hastily constructed missive. Reply
  • Conficio - Sunday, February 17, 2013 - link

    For anything than news and live events, such as sports, etc. There is no reason for any IPTC channels and line up. With hundreds or even thousands of channels to choose from it is useless to have any 24/7 program that includes a few highlights and a lot of filler.

    What really needs to happen is build a platform that can monetize a movie/show/episode per view ideally on an egalitarian price (99 cents per hour?). Remember how iTunes made the turn around for digital online music that was not pirated? It made it because it simplified the price question. One song, a buck? Yes, any song the same price! I'll always spend a dollar for a song. The same must be working on an hour of entertainment. Movies in the theater, cost mostly the same, even if they are of different length, quality of fame of cast/director. Make the online consumption the same simple price model and allow a rewind of the same show within 30 days w/o paying again (or make that lifetime).

    I can't tell you what the right price/h is but an equal price is right. May be two prices, one with advertisement, one w/o. The producers will make more money with popular shows and each show becomes its own franchise, which does nto need to live next to duds in a 24/7 lineup.

    Anything short of that is meh!
  • lopri - Sunday, February 17, 2013 - link

    But I never understood the concept of Netflix or whatever media box (Yuku?). I still don't know what they exactly do, other than maybe the let you rent movies or shows that they have in their library.

    Can one watch, say, American Idol real-time and cast her/his votes with these devices?
    Can you watch Rachel Maddow show real-time? I mean, it's a daily news show. You don't watch a day's news the next day.
    Can kids watch Sunday morning shows or Saturday morning cartoons?
    Can you watch Super Bowl or baseball games live?
    What about Academy awards or some such?

    Can one do all of the above after "cutting the cord"? This is a genuine question because I have never paid attention to this type of devices.
  • losttsol - Monday, February 18, 2013 - link

    Dear Intel,
    I'll take ESPN and Discovery Channel. My wife wants Bravo and E. I'll OTA my local channels. The cable company can choke on the rest. Make it happen. Thanks.
  • jackoatmon - Monday, February 18, 2013 - link

    Someone needs to make a device. A fully integrated solution with a content backend. Think Netflix with way more concurrent selection as an interface on a clean device that you get on a subsidized contract model like a phone.

    It would be iPhone for TV.

    Just plug it in and kabam.

    Of course we all know this is exactly what it needs to be and it is beyond question that this is what it will be. It's just a question of how long it will take Apple to make - it or someone else to wake the fuck up for once and smell the coffee and pick the low hanging fruit.
  • jameskatt - Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - link

    The biggest problem for Intel is getting the content from the studios. Sure, Intel can get the same content as Netflix. But if it is going to get first-run, original, and new content, it will have to negotiate with the studios for it.

    The biggest impediment to getting content from the studios is that CableTV Companies - such as Comcast - pay the studios BILLIONS of dollars for new content. When TV shows go into syndication, the studios expect to make BILLIONS of dollars for their product. An CableTV Companies are ready and WILLING to pay them the big bucks. After all, it is the high cost of cableTV that pays for this content.

    The problem is, Intel wants to give the studios PENNIES ON THE DOLLAR for their content. This is simply not going to fly. If the studios approve of this, then CableTV Companies are going to yell and scream and demand a similar deal. Studios are going to LOSE BILLIONS OF DOLLARS in revenue. Thus, this will NEVER happen. The only low cost content we will get is the old content or near worthless content.

    The next big impediment is that the CableTV Companies are themselves producers of content. Comcast - for example - owns NBC and Universal Studios. Why would Comcast want to shoot its profits in the foot by agreeing to a lowball deal? It won't.

    The third big impediment is that The CableTV Companies nearly own the entire ecosystem for TV. They provide the Cable, the Internet, the Phone lines. They provide the Cable TV Box and DVR. They provide the CableTV software. They provider the iPad app for streaming. Some like Comcast even create the content. The only thing the consumer has to provide is the television. Thus, why would any CableTV company want to let anyone into their ecosystem? They won't. And they strongly compete. And they have the money - more than Intel has to compete in this arena.

    Intel will fail as others have failed before it. Intel's only incentive is to sell its hardware. But it won't be able to differentiate its product from its competitors so long as it will pay pennies on the dollar for the content.
  • SleepyItes - Wednesday, February 20, 2013 - link

    As with many people here, I am pessimistic about the ability for Intel to overcome the dominant influence of Cable ISP localized monopolies such as Comcast and Time Warner. These companies use their vast profits from their high-speed internet customers to ensure that they enjoy a similar lack of competition in the TV content space for as long as it is profitable. If you pay for cable internet (as I reluctantly do as there is no other option in my area), you are supporting their cause.

    The solution must come from a variety of sources, such as heavy government regulation of the existing Cable ISP infrastructure, encouragement of regulated competition via subsidization for laying new infrastructure (as Google has started to pick up where Verizon FiOS left off), and content producers who are willing to stand up to the big cable companies and network conglomerates, and provide their content directly to consumers via web based services. Netflix has shown it can be done with House of Cards (and to be fair there have been other successful web series), and now I think others need to follow suit. AMC Networks, HBO and Showtime are some of the best positioned content owners/producers to do this (I still can't believe that you can't subscribe to an online-only HBO or Showtime account).

    Even though my wife hasn't let me cut the (Satellite) cord yet, the future is clearly headed toward a more sophisticated content delivery system than Cable or Satellite TV can offer in their current state. I hope that Intel can manage it without putting more consumer money in the pockets of Comcast and Time Warner.


    Now, to Anand's initial request:

    I think a tiered or a la carte service cost of $20-$50 per month is reasonable for most families, if this truly fills the "live cable and DVR" gap. Getting the equipment for free/cheap (multiple rooms) with a two year service contract also seems more enticing than buying it outright, but I would be open to either option.

    I would expect at least the equivalent of a HD DVR, but the idea of being able to stream live/recent shows from the cloud is much better, and could seal the deal, as long as you can still fast-forward through the commercials. I would also like to see the ability to play most, if not all, content on my iPad (at least when I am on my home network). DirecTV has this and I absolutely love it. It would also be nice if the devices on the same network talked to each other, so you could pause in one room and resume in another (another feature of DirecTV that I like).

    Personally, I would prefer a package that included major networks (NBC, FOX, ABC, etc.) along with 10 or so cable channels such as HGTV, DIY, Food, Bravo, AMC, IFC, FX, BBC, Comedy Central, and Cartoon Network, plus at least the ability to watch local (SF Bay Area) sports. It would be really great if you could add/remove channels or shows on a whim (e.g. During the World Cup).

    I really look forward to seeing who ends up pulling ahead in the TV content delivery wars, and I really hope that it is done in the best interests of consumers.
  • ENCOM OS-12 - Tuesday, March 05, 2013 - link

    I work on the purchasing side of the TV business for a major retailer and feel well informed about the TV business in general. I've worked directly with almost every major TV manufacturer and have been along for the ride with Intel's attempts at entering the TV business both through direct contact with them as well as various manufacturer partnering attempts. AnandTech has always been one of my favorite resources for up to date industry & tech information so I believe you are also well informed when it comes to speculating about Intel's next step. My only addition is that 4K will be arriving later this year and the content delivery concerns were often speculated to be downloadable content. I would think Intel would plant a focus here with regards to future TV models in the near term. Thank you Anand & staff for the many years of great articles and the significant knowledge I have gained from them in selecting PC related products in the past and even televisions today for our customers. Keep up the great work! Reply

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