A new proposal from the Federal Communications Commission could force cable and satellite providers to broaden support for third-party set-top boxes, allowing Apple and other companies to offer cable support into their devices, such as the Apple TV.
Rather than being forced to rent or purchase a set-top box from their television provider, consumers would be free to choose any unit designed to industry specifications, according to the Wall Street Journal. Details of the proposal remain scarce, though the cable industry has already begun to circle the wagons in opposition.
Cable companies would of course battle tooth and nail against any such change in policy, as it would not only cause a dip in their set-top box rental fees, but would also lead to a lessening of their leverage in the relationship with customers. Currently, with a few exceptions, customers who opt for more than basic cable service are required to use, and pay a fee for, a set-top unit owned by the cable company. This allows cable companies to have huge control over the content available to customers.
“If you have a good program idea, some financing, and access to the Internet, you can find your audience,” BET founder Robert Johnson told the paper. “But your audience can find you only if they have a modem or a set-top box or software that lets them know you are there and gives them access to your programs unconstrained by the network gatekeeper.”
Any such changes to cable regulations that the FCC might put in place would benefit companies such as Apple and Google. Apple has in the past, reportedly engaged in fruitless talks with Time Warner over a deal that would bundle access to Time Warner’s content with the Apple TV, and Google wants to build cable functionality into its Google TV.