Peter Kafka

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Intel Inside Your TV: The Chip Guys Want to Become Cable Guys

erik_huggers2Who’s going to take on the cable guys? Lots of really big, powerful tech companies with heaps of clout and money — Google, Apple and Microsoft, for starters — have looked at the pay-TV business and decided it doesn’t make sense for them to try to really compete.

But Intel says it’s going to do it, starting this year.

That was the most important takeaway from Intel Media head Erik Huggers’s appearance at D: Dive Into Media last week. You can see the entire interview below.

And for those of you who like to read: While Huggers wouldn’t go into lots of detail, the BBC transplant gave us a pretty good advance of what Intel thinks it can do:

  • Launch a new Web video service, with a new brand, that combines all or most of the channels pay TV customers are used to getting, along with programming from the Web — at prices that are close to what the pay-TV guys are charging today.
  • Add a new user interface that is significantly better than the ones people get now from their cable guys, along with features like “catch-up” viewing.
  • Roll out a new Intel-based set-top box, which would include a sensor that could “see” people in their living rooms.

That’s the first time Intel has ever commented publicly about its plans, which have generated a lot of skepticism in the TV industry. Conventional wisdom among programmers I’ve talked to is that Intel has yet to demonstrate that it’s truly serious about pay TV, by pulling out its checkbook and paying up for the stuff it will need.

And even if Intel does get programming deals, convincing consumers that the stuff it’s selling is worth ditching their current service for will be a challenge. And that all-seeing eye on the TV box (even if it does come with a shutter you can pull down) …

But consumers and critics have been crying out for one of the tech giants to take on the pay-TV guys for a long time. Now Intel swears it will deliver. Grab your popcorn.

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