Will 2013 be the year that TV viewers begin picking and choosing which cable networks to subscribe to online instead of having channels bundled together by cable and satellite distributors? Industry observers will be watching next week's Consumer Electronics Association summit for indications of the road ahead.
In the past week, Intel has provoked some buzz with reports that the the multinational chip maker is working on a set-top box that will deliver IPTV to consuers. How far Intel will go with its product is an open question. According to Forbes, Intel is prepared to invest heavily and has been able to negotiate licensing agreements with Hollywood allowing customers to subscribe per channel as well as have the ability to use "Cloud DVR" features.
The Wall Street Journal also reports about Intel's TV plans, but hedges on whether the company has made any real progress on the deal front. The paper notes skepticism from those in the TV industry who fear disrupting relationships with cable- and satellite-operators and cites one TV executive who doesn't want to be the first to negotiate a deal with Intel.
Intel is scheduled to hold a press event at CES, but both publications say that the company isn't quite ready to discuss its television plans yet. The rollout of Intel's TV service could come as early as March in beta testing (Forbes) or somewhere in mid-2013 (WSJ).
There could be other announcements on the Web TV front at CES.
For example, Aereo, the digital TV distributor that was launched with significant financial backing from Barry Diller to much fanfare and legal controversy in 2012, is prepared to make what it is pre-hyping as "big news" at CES.
Aereo already announced in December that it would be adding the Bloomberg TV channel to its content package and chief executive Chet Kanojia has spoken in recent months about turning Aereo into a platform that would deliver an a la care menu of cable channels at about $2 to $4 per channel. He is scheduled to make some sort of announcement at the Citi Global Internet, Media & Telecommunications Conference on January 8th in Las Vegas.
At CES, announcements by Apple, Microsoft and Google -- all working on IPTV -- will also be followed by many in the TV industry. Google is reported to be unveiling a new integrated TV product although not much details are known at this point.
E-mail: email@example.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner