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Cable TV Makes Last Ditch Attempt to Stay Relevant

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When premium services like Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu.com each allow unlimited access to television shows and movies for $7.99 a month, the cable box -- physically oversized and technically archaic -- begins to seem obsolete.
 
Sure, customer satisfaction surveys from cable users are abysmal. But, for some reason, a majority of Americans are still glued to the good ol’ fashioned boob tube.
 
Boingboing.net recently covered the Cable Show -- which is not a cable TV drama about running a thinly-veiled major cable provider (does that sound as boring to you as it does to me?). It’s an industry conference held a few weeks ago in Boston for networks to showcase new channels and line-ups, and cable providers to flaunt their new technology and distribution services.

With a genuine Apple (AAPL) HDTV still nowhere to be found, Comcast (CMCSA) stole the show with the introduction of its X1 service, branded as “the next-generation television experience." Oh, wow. Say goodbye to the grid-based television programming guide and hello to more accessible DVR and video on-demand features, which are sure to piss-off television advertisers even further.
 
X1 will also feature an Apps menu with programs from Facebook (FB), Amazon (AMZN), Pandora (P) and more. The service will be available within a few weeks, along with an iPhone app that will work as a remote control.
 
Cisco Systems (CSCO), which is one of two companies leading the cable-box business wolrd wide, introduced their competing Videoscape interface. Motorola (MMI), the other industry leader, unveiled its DreamGallery interface, designed by a Swedish firm acquired so recently that movie rental prices were displayed in krona.
 
But, are these efforts by cable providers and services ultimately futile? An article on Business Insider suggests as the behavior of audiences changes -- namely preferences align with what’s being made available digitally -- the pay TV model will no longer be sustainable. We’re still watching TV programs and movies, but doing so using on-demand services or DVRs. Take live sports out of the equations, and chances are no one would be paying for cable.
 
A box-free future lingers somewhere out there. The FCC has looked into implementing an AllVid standard, which would allow cable and satellite tuning to be accessed from any device sans cable box.
 
While one feature of the Cable Show was a “light sleep” mode, which cuts energy consumption by 20%, its likely that sometime soon a much cheaper option will be to unplug your cable box from the wall and watch TV on your devices instead -- if it isn't already.
POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.

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