John Malone’s Liberty Global is in talks to acquire Intel’s online pay-TV service “OnCue” (currently under development), according to a Bloomberg report: “Malone would use Intel’s system outside the U.S., said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. London-based Liberty Global owns Virgin Media in the UK, and operates in Germany, Belgium and elsewhere. Negotiations are early and could fall apart, said the people, who declined to comment on the price being discussed.”
Liberty Global’s interest beefs up competition for the advanced set-top box being developed by Intel since at least early 2012. Intel, which promised to offer service this year, said it didn’t want to make significant programming deals/investments on its own, and is looking for partners. Verizon is also reportedly in talks to buy Intel’s project or work a deal.
European pay-TV services are so far rolling out some web-based features faster than in the US. In the UK, BT Group began offering free access to premium sports programs for its broadband customers, said the story. Liberty Global’s Virgin Media said in September it will offer Netflix’s subscription-streaming service with its cable TV package.
MRG, an SNL Kagan company that specializes in video and media ecosystem research, recently noted that home media gateway set-top boxes (another advanced pay-TV box) continue to be relatively modest, the new genre set-top box is appearing in homes of a select number of pay-TV subscribers: “This box, which is often called a home media gateway, offers features that permit pay-TV service providers to better meet the needs of today’s connected consumer. Some key features supported by the home media gateway products are multi-room personal video recording, streaming IP video, and support for multi-screen video (“TV Everywhere”).”
Home media gateway products offer support for conditional access and TV tuning, with enhanced connectivity capabilities. These enhanced capabilities include support for home networking and “over the top” (OTT) video.
Intel hired Erik Huggers, a former BBC exec, to run its digital-media operations in January 2011. He said in February that the company planned to launch OnCue this year, giving access to content across TV sets, smartphones and mobile devices.