Photo: Intel Photos/Flickr
Intel Media’s On Cue, the company’s not-so-secret internet-based TV service, was supposed to not only change the way pay TV is delivered, but also upgrade the entire TV-watching experience at home. Now, it looks like it’ll belong to someone else.
According to All Things D, the potentially cool pay-TV service headed by the man who helped create the BBC iPlayer, Erik Huggers, is looking at Verizon as a new home. The mobile carrier would either buy the entire division outright or partner with Intel Media to bring the On Cue service out of the holding pattern at Intel and finally introduce it to fans of pay TV. That may not help Intel up its cool factor, but for the Intel Media division, Verizon is the ticket to millions of potential customers.
Intel Media has been a company-within-a-company since December 2011. But the internal TV business wasn’t presented until February 2013 by Erik Huggers at Dive Into Media. Huggers said that TV viewers could expect the company’s over-IP TV service by the end of the year with smarter bundles and a better user experience. He believed that the experience would be enough to woo customers away from their current cable or satellite service.
In fact, Intel’s On Cue experience is superior in many ways than what’s being currently offered on cable and satellite boxes. The UI of the new Intel media box is impressive. Gone are the station numbers and the schedule grid. They’ve been replaced by a flowing list of networks that can be customized. Stop on a network and you’re presented not only with current and future programming, but also programs from as far back as three days ago that can be watched immediately. It’s like a cloud-based DVR that has already recorded every show. The system and hardware are being beta-tested by both Intel employees and select testers outside of Intel. It’s smart, quick, and not at all what you’d expect from the stuffy chip maker.
Intel’s new CEO Brian Krzanich seems to believe the same thing. He voiced his misgivings about Intel entering the wild and wooly content world during a Reuters interview [[WHEN]]. “We believe we have a great user interface and the compression-decompression technology is fantastic,” he said. “But in the end, if we want to provide that service, it comes down to content. We are not big content players.”
If you’re an Intel Media employee, that’s probably the last thing you want to hear from your new boss. But Krzanich is more focused on Intel’s core business, and more importantly, getting its chips in the exploding mobile market. Nearly every smartphone and tablet is currently powered by an ARM processor. Intel may own the desktop and server market, but its mobile strategy has been lacking. Why deal with the distraction of the completely new business when the the core business needs immediate help? And that’s where a potential Verizon deal comes in.
Verizon has five million FIOS TV customers and over 100 million mobile customers. At launch, Verizon could market On Cue to millions of customers. Because the TV service uses broadband to deliver TV instead of cable lines or satellite, the carrier could bundle the service with mobile contracts or with its FIOS TV service. Better yet, because On Cue can deliver crisp video at as little as 3Mbps, Verizon customers could potentially watch live TV on their smartphones and tablets on the mobile network. Your favorite TV shows would not only live in your home, they’d go with you everywhere else too. In fact, one of the biggest hurdles of mobile TV viewing is already being addressed.
On Thursday, Nielsen announced an SDK to help track traditional TV content on mobile devices. Shows viewed on mobile devices will be added to the general Nielsen rating of those shows. Networks use this information to determine how much to charge advertisers and if a show should stay on the air. It’s the traditional ad-revenue business model that networks understand.
Right now, it’s unlikely that Huggers’ prediction of an end-of-year launch will come to fruition if Intel is looking for another company purchase or partner for Intel Media. But if rumors about a Verizon acquisition are true, Intel Media’s On Cue could get more than a second chance, it could get a better chance to really change the TV landscape.
When contacted about the potential sale/partnership, both Intel and Verizon had no comment.