Intel Plans to Launch 'Smart' Internet TV Bundles This Year

Intel's Huggers: Chip-Maker to Compete with Pay TV Providers on Features, Not Price
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Intel sometime in 2013 expects to debut a broadband-delivered TV service that includes “proper” live television and on-demand content, according to Erik Huggers, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel Media.

The chip giant will compete with incumbent cable, satellite and telco TV services based on features -- not price -- Huggers said, speaking Tuesday at AllThingsD’s "D: Dive Into Media" conference in Dana Point, Calif.

“I think we can bring an incredible television experience via the Internet to consumers,” Huggers said. “What this is not about... is a value play.”

Intel has approached major media companies about licensing deals, Huggers said. He declined to say whether the company has secured any distribution agreements at this point. Intel Media's service (Huggers declined to say what the brand name will be) won’t deliver “pure a la carte” but will provide more flexible bundling options.

“We think we can do a much better job, and in partnership with programmers we can create something more flexible,” Huggers said. “I think there is an opportunity to create smarter bundles.” Today, pay TV providers offer “the top 100, the top 200, the top 300 -- that’s the choice you have,” he said.

Huggers added, "I don’t believe the industry is ready for pure a la carte... I believe there is value in bundles."

The Intel Media service will include live television, catch-up television, on-demand content and a set of applications. “Our ultimate vision is that … we think there is an all-in-one solution,” Huggers said.

Huggers has been building the Intel Media group, which works from its own dedicated office building, for the last 12 months. The group includes executives from Intel as well as Apple, Jawbone, Microsoft, BBC, Netflix and Google, Huggers said.

The Intel Media service will be delivered via an Intel-powered set-top box “with beautiful industrial design.” The set-top will include a camera that will identify viewers, to deliver personalized features and content recommendations to users.

“It’s personal, it learns about you, it cares about who you are,” Huggers said. “We think there’s real value in identifying who’s watching TV.”

Huggers, asked whether the camera in the set-top would be disconcerting for consumers, said users would be able to shut off the feature. Ultimately, he said, being able to identify an individual TV viewer will provide a better overall user experience.

Intel needed to develop its own set-top to be able to “deliver the experience we have in mind for the living room,” Huggers said. “There is no platform out there today that will do that.”

Asked how bandwidth-usage caps will affect Intel’s Internet TV service, Huggers said, “Our analysis is that with the service we are building, with the amount of bits we will pump in people’s living rooms, we will fit within those caps. We are betting those caps are going to rise... or ultimately go away.”

Huggers, previously director of the BBC's Future Media & Technology division, joined Intel in January 2011 as general manager of its Digital Home Group. Originally that group included microprocessors for consumer-electronics devices like smart TVs, but Intel phased out that project and Huggers shifted to heading up the Intel Media division.

At the BBC, Huggers led the team that create the BBC iPlayer online video player. “IPlayer become kind of synonymous with on-demand, the way Xerox is for copying and Kleenex is for tissues,” he said. In the U.S., “right now we don’t have a real catch-up service.”

Current TV guides are “pretty clumsy” and hard to use, Huggers said. “There is a massive gap.”