The Empire strikes a deal? Intel may sell its anticipated streaming set-top project to Verizon

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It looks like the Intel streaming set-top box we’ve been waiting for may never see the light of day – at least not with Intel’s gleaming logo stamped on it, anyway. In a report broken by AllthingsD, unnamed sources said Intel is looking to hand over its share of stock in the streaming set-top box game to media and telecommunications Goliath,Verizon, a move that would put the powerful FiOS cable branch of the mega-conglomerate in a position to expand its reach even further.

The report claims that Intel and Verizon are already deep into negotiations for Verizon to take over a large chunk of Intel Media, the branch created to design and implement Intel’s new streaming device and service. Whether or not Intel will retain partial ownership of the company remains to be seen.

First word of Intel’s intentions to parlay its prowess in the microchip game into the creation of its own streaming/cable box came back in December 2012. At the time, similar moves from other tech giants like Apple and Google made the company’s transition to a whole new industry seem slightly less curious. But diving into the strange estuary in which the video streaming river meets the ocean of cable providers seems to have proven a more difficult challenge than Intel originally anticipated.

The company’s vision of a box that offered a smaller cable package blended with a wide array of streaming services to create the “best Internet television service ever” met resistance from content providers, who were reluctant to draw the ire of cable and satellite providers like…well, Verizon FiOS, for instance. The big dogs of the industry make a lot more dough from the bloated packages that are often paired with premium streaming/DVR devices, such as TiVo’s Roamio line-up. It seems Intel was never able to secure the deals it required to move forward on solid footing.

With the news of Verizon’s possible swooping in to claim Intel’s prized new device for its own, it appears we may never see the realization of Intel’s vision. While the Intel-backed box assured a dose of healthy competition that would create a more even playing field in the set-top-box landscape, backhanded deals like Verizon’s partnerships with should-be competitors like Comcast, Time Warner, and Bright House Networks imply that Verizon plays a more insidious game. Mixing telecommunications such as cable, broadband, mobile, and home phone services, this latest acquisition of yet another facet to Verizon’s empire brings to mind the oil barons of yore.

Neither Intel nor Verizon have made comment on the possible deal, so no ink has been set to paper as of yet. And, luckily, there is still plenty of healthy, capitalist competition to be had in the wild west of video streaming devices from the likes of Google, Apple, Roku, and others. Still, this latest piece of news creates another potential threat to the most important piece of the multi-media puzzle: choice. We’ll be keeping both eyes open to see how the deal shakes out.