Intel closing in on content deals for upcoming TV service


In the last year, it seems everybody has been giving television the old college try, but even after reporting on the aspirations of Microsoft, Apple, Intel, and Amazon (just to name a few), we weren’t quite sure what to make of the TV mania that had taken over consumer electronics. Since many of the hats cluttering up the ring belonged to companies that had historically had little to no involvement in the industry, we wondered what kind of resources these new players would commit? Would anybody really go for the gold?

Well, if we had any doubts about Intel’s commitment, a bit of breaking news has done its part to allay them. Earlier today, Bloomberg reported that the company is making significant progress in its talks with NBC Universal, Time Warner Inc., and Viacom Inc. Citing unnamed sources, the article reports that the media outfits have assented to “broad outlines” of Intel’s proposed service, but goes on to say that there is plenty left to be settled.

Woah. Perhaps we should have taken the hint when – back in February – Corporate VP of Intel Media Erik Huggers said that the company’s goal was to “build the best internet television service ever.” Still, you learn to be a cynic in this industry and actions pack more wattage than words.

If we’re reading the tea leaves right, Intel is getting serious, and could be primed to blow out the speakers with its live, Internet-delivered iteration of TV. Though others are producing their own original content, and plenty of services boast robust catalogs of reruns, thus far, Intel has been the only one willing to fork over the kind of scratch needed to secure broadcasting licenses. Right now, we’re just not sure if anyone can compete with the live-ness of its proposed service, but if it succeeds, you can bet that plenty of other players will be dipping deep into their pockets to try to emulate Intel’s model.

Though new blood in a once stale industry may (and should) sound attractive to consumers, we are starting to wonder whether the transfusion may cause a different problem. With several different services having already secured exclusive streaming offerings, it’s not much of a stretch to think that the live versions of your favorite shows could soon be similarly fragmented; what if you end up needing to manage four or five different subscriptions, download four or five different apps, remember four or five different passwords, and pay four or five different monthly fees just to access the content you desire? If you think that sounds like about as much fun as a root canal, you’re not alone.

Right now, it’s speculative to consider such a future, but let’s just say we really hope this shakes out in favor of the consumer. It would be some pretty cruel irony if the shift away from bundled, restricted cable ended up producing bundled, restricted, Internet-based cable.