Look, Ma! No Box!

One of the most curious developments to come out of CES 2012 for the television industry was the announcement from DIRECTV and Samsung. The two companies are going to partner by building set-top box functionality into a line of Samsung Smart TVs. This becomes curiouser when you add the fact that Verizon and LG made a similar announcement.

The Samsung sets will connect to a DIRECTV DVR set-top box, so that they can access recordings and live programming directly without the need for a separate box. The LG sets will be able to access live programming on 26 channels, as well as a library of more than 10,000 video on demand titles.

So what’s the real benefit here? By adding some extra features to a smart television, LG and Samsung give you limited access to your subscription-TV service. In return, you get to eliminate the clutter of a set-top box and the extra monthly rental fee. But if that extra cost is just $6 a month, then you can probably save several times the $72 annual cost by getting an HDTV that isn’t as smart as these new ones (such as the set you may already have, which costs you nothing more if you don’t have to replace it). And you get full access to all the programming and all the interactive content that you’re paying for with your subscription.

Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great to make smarter sets that give me access to more content more easily (and sometimes at a lower cost). But I don’t understand paying more for a set that delivers less than I could get otherwise.