Intel hopes to trump cable TV packages with new set-top box

Intel says there is an opportunity to package Internet and TV content in a single bundle

Intel aims to deliver more targeted packages of TV and Internet content at different price points through its upcoming TV set-top box, which will better address user needs than bundles offered by cable TV and satellite companies.

Later this year, Intel will release a set-top box that will deliver live TV and on-demand content through a customized Web user interface. The set-top box could replace cable TV boxes, Apple TV or Roku boxes, and will also deliver TV and Internet content to tablets and smartphones.

The TV box, which is yet unnamed, is being tested in the homes of some Intel employees on the U.S. West Coast, said Eric Free, vice president and general manager of content and services for Intel Media, during a speech at the Next TV Summit in New York on Thursday.

Consumers have different viewing needs, and cable and satellite companies load packages to include channels that customers may not want. Intel will offer a wider range of packages of targeted content, Free said.

"We think we can deliver a better user experience" and better packaging, Free said.

Intel is partnering with online and broadcast companies to deliver content through its box. Intel is open to the idea of working with cable companies, though the company has not made any related announcements.

"We think there's an opportunity to bundle in a smart way," Free said.

The company announced the TV box just a month ago, and has not revealed packages or pricing. But Intel does not want to try to "outprice or underprice" existing services, Free said.

In a question and answer session after his speech, Free acknowledged that there could be an opportunity to drive content bundles that could be inexpensive compared to packages available now, though Free said that wasn't the goal.

There is an audience who can't afford cable TV, but the set-top box is targeted more at younger audiences who want convenient access to live TV, on-demand TV and Internet content in a single box, Free said.

The box will bring social media, gaming and other online activities to the living room TV watching experience.

"We are more interested in solving problems for the younger audiences who are deeply dissatisfied with what they are getting," Free said.

Intel has an early advantage as products like Roku and Apple TV either don't offer live TV or offer it in a limited fashion, and satellite and cable boxes are not yet designed to handle online content.

The TV box is being made by Intel's Media Group, which was founded in late 2011. The chip maker faces challenges as it moves into a market in which device makers, TV companies, content providers and cable and satellite companies are jostling for control of TV sets. Intel has rarely released products directly to consumers, and that has raised questions about whether the TV box will succeed.

But Intel has moved fast in making the device, and Free said the time is ripe for delivery of TV content over the Internet.

Content compression techniques are improving, and the Internet download speed will quadruple by 2015, Free said. Citing a Cisco study, Free said that in the future more than half of the Internet bandwidth will be taken up by video streams.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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