With the advent of smart tv's and cheap blu ray players that have netflix apps and the ability to play contect from a USB storage device built in I can't see how the set top box market will keep going.
If you have cable you NEED a set-top box for each TV and of course the cable company gets to charge you $5-20 per month for each box you have, in addition to all the other fees for stuff you don't really want but need to have to get the channels you do want(like HBO)
As cable subscribers in the US transition from "basic cable" to "digital cable"....of course the set-top box count will increase.... "Digital cable" requires a CableCARD compatible device...and since TV makers aren't supporting CableCARD, set-top box is the only option.
All you have to do to get rid of a set top box is build a HTPC with a sufficiently large enough HDD and with Win 7 Home Premium. Then get a Ceton 6 tuner cable card unit or a Silicondust Homerun or 2, then your can get rid of the Set Tops.
You then set up your extenders (like an Xbox360, or Ceton Echo, PS3's work through Dtcp/IP on the Silicondust units) to the HTPC, each HTPC can have 4 extenders on them. Put the extenders on the TV's you use to use as set top boxes.
The HTPC uses Windows Media Center as the DVR and works every bit as good as the company provided DVR/set top box. The only thing I can't do is access 'On Demand' but I can use Xbox video, Amazon Prime or any other on demand service instead.
I gave my set top boxes back to the cable company over a year ago and a half ago, and combined with discounts for the cable companies screw ups I have more than made up for the investment I have in this.
But other than what I describe, there really is no replacement for a set top cable box. If your used to having cable or satellite than you will not get the same experience from Netfix, Hulu etc.
They always mention the Rokus but the WDTV can do everything the same BUT can also stream movie files from a local home server, computer or USB stick/drive... and it plays a ton of formats like MKV. Rokus is junk in comparrison. Wake up people.
Most TV service providers (cable and satellite) include at least one free box. increasingly, they also offer a means of accessing the likes of Hulu and Netflix. Dedicated set-top boxes make very little sense for these people. But, relative to an HTPC a set-top box is much cheaper (though also less capable). That being said, it is conceivable that there will be an increase in the use of set-top boxes, but it may not be as much as being suggested here.
If there is one thing I absolutely hate, it is cable boxes. Why do we need those big bulky things for each room!?
Verizon now has their app so you can watch a bunch of channel on your phone, live TV, why can't we just have a bunch of small android devices that connect to a TV and watch any channel immediately like on that Verizon app! We just need one larger device for the main household TV for DVR and media streaming functions, then tiny devices that plug into the rest of the TVS like a chrome-cast device.
We need a better alternative then giant cable boxes that cost money each month. It would be so cool to plug a chrome-cast like device into a TV then just watch your TV through that.
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What is going to drive the cable box industry in the US is the FCC (or is it FTC?) change to what is required to make a TV work on cable. It used to be that you could watch all of the expanded basic analog channels straight off the cable on any cable-ready TV. That was mandated by law, and both the cable companies and TV manuf's were required to uphold that.
Enter switched digital video (SDV). I'm not aware of a single TV that supports this natively. The Ceton does, and the HD HomeRun will with a separate SDV box. And cable STBs do. Basically, the cable co's petitioned the FCC to allow them to use SDV "in the interest of providing more content and more diversity at better quality and lower cost to consumers." And in the process, they completely side-stepped the original mandate from the FCC that all expanded-basic channels be accessible by a cable-ready TV without a separate device. Thank you bought-and-paid-for FCC. Thank you Congress. I really needed another reason to spend money. And being able to access a game of cricket being played in Zimbabwe at 4 a.m. was just the ticket.