Intel Confirms TV Plans, Won’t Exactly Kill Cable Bundles

Intel says it does have plans to offer its own television service this year, as rumors suggested, but it won't quite be the a la carte alternative that cord cutters have dreamed about.

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Yi-ting Chung / Reuters

Intel says it does have plans to offer its own television service this year, as rumors suggested, but it won’t quite be the a la carte alternative that cord cutters have dreamed about.

Instead, Intel wants to offer “curated” bundles of TV channels, said Erik Huggers, General Manager of Intel Media, at this week’s Dive Into Media conference. These bundles would be smaller than the packages that cable and satellite providers offer, and would allow for more customization, according to¬†Reuters, but they won’t necessarily be cheaper.

Intel plans to stream these channels over the Internet, using set-top boxes powered by the company’s own processors, and would also make the service available on other devices, such as PCs and tablets. As The Verge reports, Huggers said Intel’s devices would have a “beautiful industrial design,” and would come equipped with a camera, which could recognize individual users and recommend things to watch. In addition to streaming live television, the device will support DVR-style content, on-demand shows and apps.

The idea is to have a single streaming device–and a single input on your television–that handles all your viewing needs, rather than just being a supplement like Roku or Apple TV. By combining all kinds of content into one interface, TV providers can start to move away from the traditional grid-like channel guide, and make it easier to find interesting content through recommendations or search.

Many other companies have tried, or have been trying, to make this happen. Google TV, for instance, pulls in channel listings from your cable box, and indexes those shows alongside other online sources, such as Netflix and Amazon. But Google doesn’t actually offer any live television packages on its own, so Google TV can feel a bit like a hack. Microsoft has made a handful of deals to let cable subscribers watch shows on the Xbox 360, but support from TV providers has been limited so far. Apple has reportedly been trying to come up with its own TV service, similar to what Intel is putting together, but its negotiations with Hollywood have been slow-going.

As the issues with those other companies have shown, software and technology are only one side of the equation. There’s also the business side, which involves convincing Hollywood that a new kind of TV service isn’t bad for their bottom lines.

It seems that Intel is the only one to pull it off so far, but at a price: while rumors claimed that Intel wanted to offer a la carte programming, where you only pay for the channels you want, that’s no longer the plan. “I don’t believe that the industry is ready for a la carte,” Huggers said.

We’ll have to wait and see what Intel’s curated bundles look like by comparison. Huggers said Intel will launch the service later this year under a new brand sold directly to consumers, but the company hasn’t announced a launch date or pricing.

One other remark from Huggers seems worth mentioning, as reported by The Verge: “Intel is very interested in [having] a direct connection to the consumer,” Huggers said. After television, could Intel-made phones and tablets be next on the list?