What I'd Like to See

I've done my best to cut through to exactly what Intel has said up to this point. There's a lot and very little at the same time. One thing I can take for granted however is that Intel won't be able to hit a moving target. I figured I'd end this piece with my own thoughts on what I'd like to see, as well as get your feedback as to what you'd like to see as well.

I cut the cord a while ago. What drove me to getting rid of my cable TV subscription was the fact that I simply never used it. Live TV was nice to have, but I never had the time to watch anything when it aired. Years ago I was on the opposite side of the spectrum. I had multiple DVR boxes and was all-in on cable TV. Before then I even tried adding premium channels like HBO and Showtime to my lineup. I'd always heard folks talk about how much better the programming was on those channels. And without those premium channels I was always behind the times on shows like the Sopranos or Weeds. What ultimately happened however was I didn't have time to watch all of the content I was paying for. When I had time to watch something, it was almost never live - I relied heavily on my DVR, which never let me watch my recorded content on whatever device I wanted to use. Even the content on those premium channels was surprisingly disappointing. I was paying a lot for what ended up being just one or two shows that I wanted to watch, and a lot of other content that I really didn't care about.

I was a late adopter of Netflix, but that content library gave me enough to watch during my limited downtime. I'd rely on the web for everything else. I could grab local channels over the air, but I rarely exercised that ability. For the most part, I'm fine living with this combination of Netflix and the web. I'd like everything in one place and I'd like newer content, but I'm not willing to pay an extra $50 - $100 per month to get that. Netflix is a downright steal as far as I'm concerned. At $8 per month I feel like I'm paying far less than what I should be.
 
At the same time, I understand where Netflix falls short. I can't subsist on older content alone. Every now and then I might want to watch something that was actually filmed this year. For that, Netflix needs a counterpart. Some turn to Hulu, and if you're a Hulu Plus subscriber you do at least get portability across multiple devices similar to Netflix. Unfortunately the content I want isn't always available on Hulu, and I'm not a fan of the delayed availability aspect either (waiting until the day after a show airs seems silly). Hulu has the pricing right, but the content and experience side could both use some work.
 
The ideal solution for me would be a service that contains the set of everything I care about that's not included in Netflix, extensible across all of my devices/PCs/Macs, for a monthly price substantially south of $50/month. The trick in all of this is the first stipulation: a service that contains the set of "everything I care about". Although I like basketball, I don't follow it religiously. I need the major networks, Comedy Central, perhaps the Food Network and one or two more. I need a smaller, targeted bundle. I don't mind the ability to scale up, but if Intel is really going after the cord cutters it needs to offer small steps.
 
I haven't talked about the quality aspect of all of this yet but I do believe there's a play there. TVs have gotten a lot bigger and cheaper, and quality HD projectors aren't absurdly expensive either. Getting truly high-bitrate, high-quality content that's streamable just hasn't been possible. I'd love the ability to stream > 10Mbps H.264, high quality content whenever I wanted to. I don't need it for all devices, but to be able to optionally kick into a high quality mode would start to enable some interesting high end usage models (and potentially higher revenue for Intel). Ultimately I'd love to see a situation where we can stream BD quality content when a movie launches in theaters, but that's a discussion for another time.
 
I realize I'm just one datapoint in all of this. I'd be very curious to see what you all have to say. In the comments below, share your thoughts on bundles, network/channel lineup, features you'd like to see and pricing. I can't guarantee anything, but this will at least give me good data to take back to Intel when I meet with them next.
The Backstory: Why Get into the TV Business?
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  • Sprigjr - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I love anandtech. Reply
  • artvscommerce - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I often have that same thought. Just make sure you don't say that in ATOT! It never ends well.. Reply
  • spazmedia - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    Anand,
    Intel will undoubtedly build an amazing product to access content. However the BIG problem, and I mean big, is getting the license to distribute the content. All the content producers (studios) need to be on board. This is not a trivial task and armies of lawyers will be involved. Intel can spend all they want but they have absolutely no presence, from a negotiation perspective, in the entertainment business. In fact if they were serious about this project they would have sought out partners. What complicates matters further is that these same studios also own cable networks. They have no interest in divesting of those interests.
    Reply
  • Khato - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    One interesting perspective to take on this though is that Intel has a chance at negotiating purely because they aren't in the entertainment business. As you correctly point out, when the content owners also have a stake in the cable networks there's no reason for them to license content for any less than what they get from the cable networks as a whole... which basically requires the cost to the consumer to be higher in order for the third party to make a profit.

    Intel potentially has an interesting play here in that they don't need to make money on the content. Initially at least I'd imagine they'd be fine with just making money on the hardware and having the content portion be at cost... and in that case the sales pitch to the content owners would be the advertisements aspect. If the content owners could actually be making more money through Intel's IPTV due to greater ad revenue than they do through with the current system... well, why exactly wouldn't they give it a try to see if it pans out?
    Reply
  • mrdude - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    ad revenue is only one aspect, and it's actually not favorable for them. Ads online aren't greeted with the same obliviousness. People are well aware of ads online and hate them with a passion. If the ads are done the same way they are on television - which would essentially be the same exact viewing experience as watching it over the air - then where's the benefit?

    I don't see this going anywhere unless the big content providers are able to make a significant profit. Breaking up the stranglehold on content, packaging and service, is a move in the opposite direction, though. Unless the providers are making the same amount of money, or more, per-customer, they won't bother. But unless this is significantly cheaper than cable or satellite subscription, viewers won't care.
    Reply
  • ricardoduarte - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    I honestly think that this might work, like anand pointed out correctly intel needs a backup strategy from the sinking PC business, and they are (in my opinion) the best company to change it all. Imagine how this model would simplify infrastructures for cable operators ( i dont know about US but in EU usually they provide internet and tv tied in their infrastructure).
    This approach would allow them to reduce infrastructure costs greatly, while keeping costumers attached to it, the way i see it, if a cable operator is to adopt this, they would use it as an excuse to replace tivo (i use virgin in uk) or recording boxes, and charge a premium on top while things on their side a being upgraded to eventually do a full switch.
    If you think about this cable operators would only have to worry about delivering the content, and internet connection service, which would reduce their costs greatly (if intel isn't too greedy).

    The only thing that makes me wonder is if cable operators will be happy to depend of intel, because by using this model intel could in theory dictate the price of cable and annoy a lot people.

    If intel are clever enough they only build the sdks for the cable boxes and leave the UI's to be done by content providers so they can create a branding illusion.
    Reply
  • mrdude - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    "If you think about this cable operators would only have to worry about delivering the content, and internet connection service..."

    While bandwidth and connectivity may be great in the UK, there are many people in the US who live in rural areas. As a result, the infrastructure costs wouldn't actually be decreased but potentially increased as they'd have to add a much bigger web presence, consider the issue of hosting, servers, etc. These are all things they already have, but having millions of people demanding 24/7 uptime and fast speeds is another story entirely.

    Furthermore, there just aren't many people who have cut the cord. The content providers are making money hand over fist and data caps are still the norm. Neither of those looks like it's going to change anytime soon.

    This model would work if there was an untapped market so big that it would allow for these companies and providers to deviate from their current pricing schemes and content delivery systems. There isn't, though. And without an incentive ($$$), it just won't happen.

    I understand Intel needs to diversify given the threat from below, but this just doesn't look like it's the right direction nor the right time.
    Reply
  • new-paradigm - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    We have the same problem in the UK. Connection out in the sticks is not always great... although broadband over phone is at least usually able to give a couple of megs download speed. Reply
  • ricardoduarte - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    We have the same problem in uk with data connection.
    With the right video compression algorithms such as HEVC (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Efficiency_Video... efficient caching and the right software bandwith usage would be greatly reduced.

    If this method would be in place providers could focus more in offering more bandwith than maintaining sattelites, and expensive cable services, and all the other infrastructure that runs along internet cables.

    I am not saying that this will happen overnight, but that this has a much higher chance than rokus, googleTVs, appleTV, its for sure.

    Because if intel does it properly there are true economical benefits to this strategy, which is the main cause to why nothing has being done with TV yet, because the current model works and is finantially viable. If intel manages to prove that this one is much better, operators will change.
    Reply
  • Khato - Thursday, February 14, 2013 - link

    What manner of online ads are you talking about though? The absolutely pathetic ads that you get with most all of the free streaming services? Those are indeed a joke and just go to show how much those content providers need an actual solution. (Who's to say that there wouldn't be a free subset of programming equal to what content providers currently offer but using this superior user experience/infrastructure Intel is supposedly putting in, of course that'd just be streaming to a browser/app not the dedicated hardware.)

    But no, the key advantage here with advertisements would be that they could be the same as what's normally on tv, but targeted to a specific set of parameters. aka, the hardware processes the images from the camera to see who's watching (note that I'd be extremely surprised if there was any possibility of it transmitting images, just the parameters it can gather from them.) It could technically even pause the show (and the commercials!) when the viewer gets up and moves out of view. A commercial that you know a targeted audience is watching is definitely worth something more than the system as it is today.

    And the real thing to keep in mind is that this is simply the way to get their foot in the door. Once the media conglomerates see the advantages of this model there's a lot more than can be done. Eventually might even be able to get rid of the commercials if willing to pay a bit more.
    Reply

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