Intel Planning Streaming TV Service Debut Later This Year

Intel is trying to break into the streaming content business -- again. At the AllThingsDigital media conference today, Erik Huggers, vice president of Intel Media, told assembled journalists that the company has been hatching a new idea for the TV space.

"We have been working for (the past) year to set up Intel media, a new group focused on developing an Internet platform," Huggers said. "It's not a value play, it's a quality play where we'll create a superior experience for the end user."

According to Huggers, the new streaming service will have ala carte options that allow customers to pick and choose between channels rather than forcing them to buy pre-bundled packages. This last is of interest as sports channels now account for anywhere between 15-50% of a person's total cable bill. If you have no interest in paying for ESPN or its ilk, that's an extremely expensive subsidy you pay for content you don't care about.

Intel Web TV

Still, Intel has been down this road before, numerous times. The company has partnered with manufacturers and developers large and small, from Yahoo and Opera to Logitech and Google.

This isn't actually a hardware problem -- at least, not really. There's no question that Intel has the manufacturing technology to build a low-power custom device that combines streaming media services, possibly some DVR options, web browsing, and even some basic gaming capabilities.

The problem is the content. When Google TV debuted several years ago, content providers lost no time in announcing they wouldn't allow users to view online content from the television. Why not? Because Google TV allowed users to watch Internet content, which has very few commercials. It ran the risk of drawing eyeballs away from lucrative cable contracts.  

Hulu has been half-neutered because television companies are terrified of it leeching away their revenue. On-demand streaming services are beginning to fragment as well, with Amazon locking up prime details on shows like Downton Abbey and the upcoming Stephen King-based TV show from CBS, Under the Dome.

Why'd those shows go to Amazon? Because Amazon isn't a threat to revenue like Netflix or Hulu.

But for Intel, who wants to offer a unified service, this is a problem. There's no doubt that the company can build an attractive hardware product. With H.265 recently finalized and new x86 processors hitting lower power consumptions every year, there's a lot of opportunity for a streaming service -- but only if content providers finally agree to play ball.