A near-term outlook for the consumer space

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From cable consolidation to set-top integration, here are some trends to watch for in the consumer space in 2014.

Cable Consolidation. Toward the end of December, Charter Communications was reportedly preparing a bid to acquire Time Warner Cable, but that’s unlikely to be the last word either on a possible sale of TWC or on M&A talk among cable MSOs. Comcast and Cox Communications were also thought to be interested in TWC should it be put in play. Cable providers, meanwhile, continue to lose video subscribers, even as programming costs soar, creating an environment that is probably ripe for consolidation — antitrust regulators permitting.

Speaking Privately. The diplomatic fallout from Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA spying has been severe but those revelations’ potential impact on U.S. economic interests is only starting to be tallied. In December, Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn, and AOL jointly sent an open letter to Congress and President Barack Obama demanding strict limits on government surveillance as the tech companies seek to rebuild consumer trust, particularly overseas. At the same time, a bipartisan group of lawmakers sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative demanding U.S. allies back off proposed new restrictions on international data traffic the lawmakers fear could harm U.S. technology companies. This is just getting started.

Set-Top Integration. With more than 80 percent of U.S. TV households having some sort of internet-connected device paired with their TV, the time is ripe to integrate linear TV and OTT into a single user interface. Whether that interface runs on a cable box, a stream-top, or on a “second screen” mobile device will be a key question in the year ahead.

Wearing Well. Wearable technology was in the headlines in 2013, thanks to Google Glass, but the next 12 months is likely to see an explosion of wearable devices as companies and entrepreneurs grope for a killer app that can’t be accomplished just as well or better on a smartphone.