Cable boxes are seemingly required devices which connect consumers to content. However, the experiences aren’t great. A lot of boxes are slow and laggy, require searches through on-screen keyboards, and lack any sort of extendable functionality like an app store. Consumers would need another streaming box in addition to a cable box and continually shift inputs when they want to switch between live TV and streaming services.
Cable boxes are essentially required in order to access many premium cable channels for live content and they are only made and leased by the cable company who made it. This is why the FCC has announced they are developing policies that would open up cable so any box manufacturer can create their own.
Some employees within Google, like vice president of access services Milo Medin, have said Google will be building something if these policies are implemented. Google already is a TV provider, with Google Fiber, although they are looking to the future of TV as well.
We have talked to folks inside who are now getting interested in it
The product would likely be something that can be integrated directly with a TV, removing the need for a cable box altogether. Google already works with TV manufacturers to provide software. Having built-in cable would be a significant marketing point that could help push Android TV.
This would be a great addition to Google’s advertising business. Not only could they show their own ads, but they will be able to collect data on user’s watching habits to improve their ads service. Regulators have said that there will be some protections for user data, and it will likely not be more invasive than current standards. According to FCC chair Tom Wheeler,
There are rules for device manufacturers and service providers at both the federal and the state level, and what we’re going to do in our rulemaking is say [to new entrants], ‘You have to have the same kind of rules that cable companies have.
The full extent of this proposal will be published next week, February 18th. Then the public will be allowed to comment on the plan and there may be significant changes to the rules before they’re finally implemented.