One night, in my sleep, I dreamed a beautiful dream. I opened my eyes and discovered that I could pick and choose which cable television channels I wanted instead of paying good, pizza-buying money for 596 stations I’ll never watch, 18 that are in languages that I don’t speak, that one station that only plays I, Robot, and the precious 6 I flip between on an obsessive near-constant loop. Then I rode the pink cardboard highway to Disney World on the top of a giant crystalline AT-AT walker.
Hey, it was a world-class dream, as far as dreams go. You know what would make it better? If some of those things actually happened. Well guess what?! *Cue magic xylophone sounds!* Intel has been/is in the process of developing a set-top box that would allow users to select only the channels they want to pay for, stepping outside the traditional bundled groupings, with the added benefit of giving every existing cable company two flying middle fingers:
This set-top box, said by industry insiders to be available to a limited beta of customers in March, will offer cable channels delivered “over the top” to televisions anywhere there is an Internet connection regardless of provider … For the first time, consumers will be able to subscribe to content per channel, unlike bundled cable services, and you may also be able to subscribe per show as well.
Speculation about the project has been all a-titter in advance of next week’s Consumer Electronics Show, where Intel will appear to promote their other chip lines but not Top Sekret Operation Destroy Time Warner. While initially the company had hoped to have prototypes out in the field as early as um, NOW, obviously that isn’t the case and here we are whispering in the dark about the dream of sweet, sweet customer service freedom. Delays and question marks abound! Conspiracy and madness!
Apparently in addition to facing ongoing technological challenges because new stuff breaks all the goddamn time, Intel is rumored to be struggling to strike a deal with television networks. WHAAAT? Networks and cable companies have been conspiring to trap consumers into buying packages of channels they don’t actually want?! No, REALLY?
The ability to purchase individual channels is something that consumers have shaken their fists about for years. You pick out what you’ll use; you pay for it. Bam. Seems like a no brainer concept, right? WRONG, because logic doesn’t add up to piles and piles of zero-effort money in executive’s pockets.
The major argument against the a la carte system has been that cable companies pay for channels at a lower subsidized rate, suggesting that buying individual channels could quickly become more expensive than a traditional cable subscription where you ignore half your TV Guide. Eh, okay. That’s a possible reality, I guess, for people who don’t know how to make math with numbers, but savvy (selective) consumers could also use the system to personalize their stations and save money if they were allowed to make their own choices like independent human adults.
In the bright new day and age of apps and online streaming services cable companies are hemorrhaging customers left and right. If Intel can manage to hammer out something friendly with networks they stand to swipe up a highly lucrative customer base, ie, people who only want to subscribe to The Hub, AMC, and Skinemax and call it a day. Hey, a girl can dream, a girl can dream.