Here's what people are thinking the future AppleTV set top box will be (from Business Insider)
- Apple wants to make what amounts to a souped-up version of Apple TV that can function as a cable set-top box.
- You would be able to start any show at any time using a DVR that stores TV shows on the Internet.
- The TV interface would look like an iPhone or iPad, with icons that users navigate. (Perhaps it looks like the current Apple TV interface with a few more icons?)
- The new interface is supposed to be better and easier to use than the current cable box interfaces. (A pretty low hurdle to clear.)
- There would be a way for people to share on Twitter or Facebook what they're watching on TV.
- Users would be able to get the entire season of a show on demand, as opposed to a few episodes the way cable companies offer now.
Here's the thing -- current jailbroken AppleTV v2 already do this especially when it comes to international TV programming. Using XBMC on AppleTV that has been jailbroken you can get live TV and archived programming. Recent entries have programmed video plugins for XBMC to access foreign TV. I've been using BestRussianTV.com albeit on a monthly subscription fee, and the access is terrific.
Note that even BestRussianTV service forces you to subscribe to hundreds of channels albet it a more reasonable cost of $20 to $40 per month. The service of course is unprecedented - live TV from over 100 channels, archives of movies and TV shows, Netflix like movie library for Russian movies (and even Hollywood titles, dubbed in Russian).
The direction is clear - give people more access for a much cheaper price point, make up for the difference in the increased bandwidth usage. Or premium features like social sharing and 2nd screen access.