Convenience is key. Everyone wants everything to be simpler in all facets of life and one of the things we spend the most time with is digital entertainment. CBS, ESPN, and HBO are now joined by Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu among channels with millions of views every day. The problem is that they are not all in the same place most of the time. Switching from one to the other, which once took a mere button push, can now require you to switch to an entirely different device. Innovation has given us more content to watch, while slowly but surely complicating the experience. But a solution is on the way, courtesy of the Federal Communications Commission.

The FCC has decided to unlock set top box access creating an opportunity for linking all entertainment channels together for consumer convenience. This is a huge step forward in creating a consumer oriented viewing experience. Many of the best shows in the past few years have not come from traditional TV networks, but from monthly subscription streaming channels. Whether it's due to a lower price, freedom from commercials, or more compelling content, streaming has officially cemented itself as a part of the TV experience. The FCC's decision is an acknowledgement of that, essentially giving these disruptive entertainment options the same home-turf advantage that cable has long held.

Clearly opportunity abounds for both streaming media providers that will soon enjoy newfound access and integration in consumers' living rooms and hardware makers who now have a shot at a piece of a newly unlocked market worth billions each year. Given consumer frustration with the outdated and clunky hardware that they're forced to rent from their cable companies, the FCC's decision could result in a mass market move from provider-issued to retail set-top boxes. You can probably already name a dozen companies that stand to benefit, but the list of those able to capitalize two-fold on both the hardware and service opportunities is much shorter, including tech titans like Google, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft, and surprisingly, media aggregation startup FreeCast.

The current third-party set top box ecosystem consists largely of pay libraries like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc., delivered by hardware with a simple app manager. FreeCast has brought these various pieces together, first by creating the technical infrastructure to browse and access content from not just one library, but all online content sources, regardless of whether they're free to access, pay-per-view, or subscription-based. This service has been available via the web, where known as Rabbit TV Plus, a popular subscription service with millions of users.

More recently, FreeCast has shown off set top box hardware, putting everything the web has to offer on consumers' televisions, alongside linear channels received via an HDTV antenna. In short, the company already has a device ready to hit the market that does exactly what consumers have been clamoring for. While other companies may specialize in hardware or content, the task at hand for a new generation of third party set top boxes isn't just to build a better mousetrap, it's to bring traditional television and increasingly popular streaming options together into a modern experience.

Published on: Feb 29, 2016