Intel is talking to US media companies about an internet-based TV service powered by its chips, in a dramatic departure for the world’s leading semiconductor company.
The discussions are at an early stage, according to people familiar with them, but could involve Intel making deals with film studios and broadcasters to deliver content via internet-enabled set-top boxes and home “gateway devices”.
Intel makes chips for such devices and could build boxes for a TV service of this kind, which would be disruptive for cable and satellite operators. It would be the group’s furthest venture into content delivery.
The talks, first reported in the Wall Street Journal, are believed to have been going on for a few months, led by Erik Huggers, head of Intel’s media group.
The group was formed last October when Mr Huggers’ former fiefdom, the Digital Home Group, was dissolved as Intel said the smart TV market would no longer be a target for its Atom microprocessors.
Its chips were in the first Google TV products, which have not made a big impact.
Intel said it would focus on media processor chips for gateway and internet protocol set-top boxes.
Mr Huggers came to Intel from the BBC, where he was director of its future media and technology business and ushered in the iPlayer for accessing programming online.
He was also director of business development for Endemol Entertainment’s interactive unit and head of global business development for Microsoft’s Windows Media Technologies.
Although best known as a chipmaker, Intel has substantial software and services capabilities and is expanding into smartphones, which would be equally capable of receiving any TV service.
Asked about the reported discussions, Intel said it did not comment on rumours or speculation.
No programming deals have been struck, according to people familiar with the situation, but Intel would be joining a crowded field. Apple is rumoured to be trying to negotiate content deals for a full-sized TV, which several analysts expect it to launch this year. Google recently launched a second version of its TV, to be released with manufacturers in Europe this year.
No one is thought to have come up with an ideal smart TV solution yet. Google TV has been simplified after being criticised for its complex interface and controllers. Samsung and Sony announced improvements to their interfaces and remote controllers at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. Motion and voice control features were also previewed.