While video-based apps do seem to be affecting cable subscriptions at some level, due to how many people (and companies) are now starting to turn to apps to get their TV content fix, it now seems those apps might be affecting cable subscribers in even greater ways going forward. This is because the FCC is now suggesting to cable companies that they should make all of their content available in app form.
While this is not too far removed from what many cable companies are already offering in a bid to keep hold of customers who are migrating to apps, the difference is that cable subscribers are still expected to make use of a cable box for the full experience. Or more specifically, still expected to pay for one and this is where the big change could take place. As the FCC wants cable companies to provide these news apps as a clear alternative to having a cable box. So you could essentially just pay for your subscription and just make use of the app with no need for an additional cable box or to pay for one.
To make it more interesting, companies will not be able to offer a lesser product in app form. Which means there would be no way for a company to offer an incentive to having the box. According to the details coming through, these new apps would need to provide as close to the same experience (as a cable box) as possible. That means advanced features (compared to what is on offer now) like universal search where searching for a specific title would bring back not just the availability through the 'cable app' but also through any other apps that offer the same title. Furthermore, as a means to stop favoritism with select manufacturers, devices and/or licensing agreements, the apps would have to be cross-platform usable in the same way. So one app for an entire platform and not for select devices or better optimized for certain devices. That is, in addition to being available on any "widely deployed platform" which opens the door for the apps to become available across different platforms as well.
The FCC does make it clear that it would not be automatically up to the cable companies to create the apps themselves, but if they did not want to create the app then they would be expected to provide the code needed for their relevant developers to develop the apps. Apps which of course, will be free to use. This won't however, have any specific impact on what you pay for your core cable subscription, as that will remain the same. The main difference is that you will no longer need to have or pay for an additional box for the fully-fledged cable experience. Instead, the 'cable app' will replace the entirety of your additional hardware and software requirements, providing you have a device to make use of the app.