Even though Aereo didn't make it, we've seen more movement towards internet TV that replaces traditional cable or antenna in the last year than ever before. This year at CES, I spoke to a startup that has big plans for its internet TV offering, even though actually making them happen could be difficult. The product is called Xfaire (inspired by "sphere," for its intended global reach), consisting of a small set-top box with a smart touchscreen remote, that connects to a streaming TV service capable of streaming highly-compressed video at resolutions of up to 4K.
According to co-founder and CEO George Tang, it wants to operate as a multichannel video programming distributor, just like your current cable company or Sling TV, but with completely a la carte programming packages. The only trick? Actually signing up recognizable content from the big networks and studios.
The way Tang sees it, the reason big companies like Google, Microsoft and Apple have been unable to take over internet TV is because the networks are afraid of working with them. Based on conversations with unnamed providers, he believes that he can cut deals for content, provided there's interest in the service. It includes plans for pretty much every feature we've heard of, with remotely synced watching for participants in different places, a cloud DVR and video on-demand. I got a demo of the service's setup and it had a plain, but working interface, with plenty of demo content filling in the spaces.
Xfaire plans to launch a crowdfunding effort soon, and seeing the interest that other small service/hardware startups like Ouya and Oculus have garnered it could have a shot there. The frustrations that resulted in Tang creating Xfaire are common: he was trying to add some foreign channels to his cable package and ended up in a mess of bundling and runaround. The limitations we all deal with in pay TV setups real, but we'll wait to see if Xfaire can find a legal way (sorry, again, Aereo) to pull in the kind of shows people want to watch before we anoint it the potential next big thing.