What is the future of the cable industry's $20B set-top business?

Even though more and more people consume linear TV on their smartphones and tablets, the venerable set-top box remains the conduit through which most people still access TV content. Yet federal regulators have worked for decades to come up with ways to remove the cable industry's lock on the set-top box. The goal, they argue, is to give customers the option to purchase whatever set-top they want, rather than leasing the one from their cable operator. The set-top issue flared anew in July, when Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) released a statement saying that American households are spending more than $231 per year on set-top box rental fees and that 99 percent of these consumers are renting their boxes from their pay-TV provider. However, many in the cable industry point out that pay-TV is hardly confined to the operator set-top these days, with authentication of services dispersing across a wide variety of products running iOS, Android, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast and Apple TV. For more on the future of the set-top box, check out this FierceCable special report