The Future of TV Is Cable Bundles on the Internet

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Google is the latest company to look into the streaming television business, but, just like other tech companies attempting to move into the future of TV, it will have to do so on the terms of the cable operators. Google would like to license channels directly from cable companies for a streaming television service, sources tell The Wall Street Journal's Christopher S. Stewart and Shalini Ramachandran. But, don't get your hopes up: This isn't a cord cutter's dream, it's just a different cord. "To get decent rates for the service now being contemplated, Google and other companies will almost certainly have to accept the standard programming bundles that cable and satellite operators pay for—packages that include highly popular and less popular channels," write Stewart and Ramachandran. Meaning: If this ever happens, Google will sell cable packages through the Internet. The only innovation there is the lack of the traditional cable box. 

That seems to be the direction all these tech companies are going in, forced by the hands of the cable companies, which fear the debundling of their services. Intel's rumored TV of the future is the same idea; Apple's likely involves some sort of actual device, but the content part sounds a lot like the Google set-up. Even if these companies dream of a more à la carte, pay-for-what-you-actually-watch situation, the cable companies have shown complete resistance to this idea. Apple, in fact, has struggled with negotiations because of this, sources tell the Journal. Sony, once rumored to have a "cable-killing" streaming service, has stalled its plans because of the cable companies. Seeing a pattern yet? 

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When people cut the cord, however, they do so because cable bundles with all of those empty channels aren't worth the average $73.44 a month they cost. Why, then, would people ditch Time Warner Cable for Time Warner Cable served by Google? "One answer, backers say, is that the technology companies can develop far better interfaces to watch television than the clunky programming guides pay TV operators offer now," writes Stewart and Ramachandran. That sounds incredibly unexciting to someone of the cord-cutting persuasion. The shiny motion-controlled interface of the mythical Apple TV can only distract from the content it serves for so long. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.