Likely planning an announcement during the Intel press conference at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) on January 7, the company is reported to be working on a new set-top box for the home theater that combines premium cable TV service with streaming video services like Netflix. According to Techcrunch, Intel plans to roll out the device on a regional basis rather than setting a date for a nationwide launch. By launching the set-top box on a city-by-city basis, Intel will be in a strategically better position to negotiate licensing deals for local video content.
Conceptually, the hardware is designed as a bridge device. Rather than completely cutting off cable and going with a streaming-only solution like a Roku 2 set-top box, Intel wants to attract consumers that want the streaming options along with local programming from a small cable package. The design sounds somewhat similar to a TiVo DVR set-top box, but with a larger amount of streaming video options.
One interesting feature detailed within the report is the ability to bring up any content that’s aired on subscribed channels within the past month. Likely housed within cloud storage in a central location, Intel could store video broadcasts over the past thirty days for all channels and simply load up that content to any subscribers in the area. Rather than forcing the consumer to constantly continue scheduling DVR recordings, the consumer can simply catch up on their favorite shows as long as the episodes aired within the past month.
The design of this feature is somewhat similar to Dish Network’s PrimeTime Anytime option that automatically records all primetime programming on ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC for the last eight days. However, Intel’s approach to the concept is more ambitious and significantly more useful to the consumer.
Earlier this year, Reuters reported that Intel was working on a way to determine what type of person was watching the television at any given time. This would allow advertisers to specifically customize advertisements to that viewer.
While the technology doesn’t specifically identify a person by name, it modifies advertisements based off gender as well as age of the viewer. Assuming Intel’s technology is successful, it would be able to provide more accurate data than the Nielsen ratings data currently used by major networks to make advertising decisions.
According to the report, Intel hasn’t been able to launch the new set-top box during 2012 due to the reluctance of content providers regarding licensing programming. Intel wants to offer the consumer the ability to subscribe to smaller content packages than a basic cable package. However, content providers don’t want to undercut existing cable and satellite partners. In addition, content providers want to be paid a premium for the smaller packages.
At this time, there’s no information available on the cost of the Intel set-top box, the cities that will have access to the hardware first or any subscription fees that come with using the hardware. Potential streaming video partners for the Intel set-top box could include Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, CinemaNow, EPIX, Crackle and Redbox Instant by Verizon.