The platonic ideal of television’s future is a la carte consumption: the ability to pay only for the channels you want. It’s a dream that everyone from Apple to Intel has reportedly pursued, and one that every half-sentient cable customer desires. But maybe the question isn’t can—or will—this happen some day. What we should really be asking is: when it does happen, what will it cost us?
It’s tempting to think that we’re inching closer to a TV revolution; if recent reports of Intel’s internet-TV set-top box are any indication, the technology is certainly in place. But, tellingly, the WSJ reports that Intel’s ambitions have been stymied by the same thing that’s kept Apple on the sidelines: the inability to cut a deal with the networks.