Previously, Samsung, LG and Panasonic have implemented a Skype videoconferencing endpoint in their Internet-enabled TVs for use with an optional Webcam. This was to allow users to have the ability to make videocalls with the ability to hear their correspondent from the TV’s speakers and see them on the TV screen.
Now Comcast, a major US cable-TV provider, has got in on the act by installing Skype on their new set-top boxes. But, typically, what will happen is that customers will have to purchase a special USB webcam through Comcast to enable the service. The backhaul for this service will be the Comcast cable-Internet infrastructure and the service will appeal to people who have Comcast also as their Internet service provider.
Could this open up the door for pay TV companies to enable their set-top boxes as Skype endpoints especially as they see themselves losing relevance in the Internet age? This is mainly due to the “cord-cutting” trend where people are downscaling or cancelling current pay-TV subscriptions or refusing to subscribe to pay-TV and use “over-the-top” Internet-delivered video-on-demand services.
On the other hand, this step, taken by set-top-box makers and cable-TV companies, could allow people who have existing TV equipment to make or take Skype calls on their favourite big-screen TVs. For satellite-based or terrestrial-based setups, it will require the use of a backhaul via the customer’s Internet service, which wouldn’t be difficult if the operator implements other Internet-based services like catch-up TV or view-on-demand. It will be interesting to see who else will roll this service in to their set-top box platforms even as TV manufacturers enable their sets for Internet TV.
It has therefore become the first time that Skype has become available in a popular set-top-box platform, especially delivered by a pay-TV provider rather than requiring the customer to buy a new set-top box for this function.