Since the 80s, many televisions in American homes have been accompanied by a stack of black boxes, each one necessary to receive cable programming, play back portable media like VHS tapes and DVDs, control audio equipment, record shows, play video games, and display on-screen guides. Fast forward to the 21st century, and it’s hard to believe that while the devices may have gotten smaller and slimmer, the collection of equipment beneath the flat screen TVs of today isn’t much different from that which sat atop the CRT televisions of previous decades. While smartphones have replaced a slew of devices that people once toted around with them: cameras, MP3 players, calendars, and cellular phones, the same thing hasn’t happened in the living room. At least, not yet.
That could be about to change soon, as Singaporean telecom StarHub has announced that their TV Anywhere service will be coming to the Xbox One, Microsoft’s next generation video game console. This essentially means that the Xbox One could function in place of the traditional set-top cable box for StarHub customers. As more and more cable companies explore video-on-demand offerings and “TV Anywhere” style apps that allow television programming to be streamed on other devices, the box once required to enjoy the hundreds of cable channels could soon become obsolete. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and other streaming services have been present on game consoles for years now, and as cable companies begin to see these subscription services as threats to their business, they want to be on devices where consumers are spending more and more time too.
For consumers, consolidating devices makes a lot of sense too. The trend is towards simplicity, and the days of having to make sure the TV is on channel 3 before starting up a movie in the VCR are long gone. Game consoles have come along way too. 20 years ago, game systems were another box by the TV that would do absolutely nothing without a game cartridge inserted. Now not only do they function as (and often replace) DVD players, they’ve become the conduits for video streaming services that have largely replaced the DVD. Microsoft’s Xbox One in particular has many media related features, touting itself as more of an entertainment hub, rather than a mere game system. For years now, these consoles have also come with Internet connectivity and web browsers, opening the door to the massive amounts of content available online.
Now that cable companies have begun rolling out apps and websites through which their customers can watch their cable shows and channels on other devices, one of which may already be hooked up to their TV, what sense does it make to have a dedicated cable box? Considering that cable companies often charge an equipment rental fee to have that box, it could become one of the first things to go, as frugal consumers look to trim costs from their monthly bills. The next generation of television is going to be available on all devices, not just whichever TV set is tethered to the box that pipes it in, as has been the case. FreeCast’s All New Rabbit TV Plus no longer requires any sort of equipment and works on any device with an Internet connection. To be successful, companies of all sizes and in a variety of industries are starting to realize that they need to be where their customers want them, regardless of their location or the device they’re using.