If you thought cable companies were in a panic about the threat the Internet poses to their business model, think again. Rather than sit idly by as Web content makes its way to television screens via set top boxes and smart TVs, companies like Comcast will instead try to position their traditional offerings alongside that streaming content. How? By adding it to set-top boxes.
Specifically, Comcast and Verizon are talking with Microsoft about the possibility of including cable subscriptions via the Xbox 360, according to a report from Digiday. The tech giant's gaming console, which already streams content from sources like Netflix, Hulu Plus and others, could in effect become a cable box if Microsoft manages to strike a deal ahead of its upcoming release of Xbox TV.
The move could offer Microsoft a real advantage over the likes of Google and Apple, whose Internet-connected set top boxes have yet to take off. In the case of Google TV, part of the platform's challenge has been in securing attractive enough content offerings. Upon its launch, some TV networks blocked their websites from streaming to Google TV-powered devices, adding to issues with the platform's user experience.
For its part, Apple has famously described its set-top box as "a hobby" but is widely rumored to be working on producing an Internet-connected HDTV set, which may hit the market as early as next year. Smaller companies like Roku and Boxee have found enthusiastic niche audiences for their set-top boxes, but nothing approaching mainstream adoption and not without content-related issues of their own.
With over 53 million units on the market worldwide, the Xbox has a far bigger reach than all four of those Web-only devices combined. By enabling consumers to subscribe to cable from Xboxes, Comcast and Verizon would help make the the device much more attractive to consumers, who may be less likely to cut the cord if the cable experience is made easily available from the same device they use to stream Internet video, play games and so much else.
Comcast has been aggressive in its attempts to thwart the disruptive challenge the Internet poses to its traditional business model. Inclusion on Xbox gaming consoles makes sense as part of the company's "TV Everywhere" model, which is designed to keep its offerings desirable in the eyes of consumers, who are increasingly expecting the ability to watch content at any time, on any device. The cable giant has also invested heavily in everything from hardware to content.
Do you think Comcast and other cable companies will hang onto subscribers by adapting like this or are they pretty much doomed? Share your thoughts in the comments below.