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IPTV: Who needs cable?

IPTV: Who needs cable?

With a full-speed Internet connection coming into your home, do you really need an old-fashioned cable or satellite TV receiver? For now you do, but the start-up ITVN has technology that could someday make TV broadcast obsolete.

The ITVN box is simplicity itself. Like the Akimbo device, it's an Internet appliance that plugs into your broadband connection on one end and your TV or A/V system on the other. From the Net, the device streams video, which is then displayed on your TV.

While the technology concept is simple, getting the content onto the service is the challenge, and it's what spells either success or failure for this technology. ITVN is having success right now with adult content--for $29.95 per month you can get 200 channels of various subgenres of grown-up entertainment. For $59.95 per month you can view the exact movie you want, from ITVN's library of 30,000 flicks. (ITVN founder David Koenig reminded me that since the Internet is not technically a broadcast medium, he is free of most of the censorship laws that affect standard TV.)

The company's first sports offering is a lacrosse channel, and it also will stream all the old movies that are in the public domain. A deal with a major movie distributor, so that his box can show the same type of content you can get on HBO or at a video store, will be announced soon, Koenig says.

Ultimately, the cable and satellite companies will have to react to this emerging threat. They have the content deals and the audience, which gives them leverage. Still, companies such as ITVN might be tasty acquisition candidates.