My dear colleague Rick Munarriz has been busy lately uncovering evidence of a trend that will soon change the way we watch television. But I think you missed the actual trend, Rick.

The sweet and lowdown
In short, Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) subscribers will soon be able to stream digital movies straight to recent-model Sony (NYSE:SNE) BRAVIA television sets, without the need to get their Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Xbox 360 or TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) DVR box involved. Netflix gets a broader potential user base without teaching us how to hook up any external set-top boxes.

Speaking of TiVo, that DVR functionality and all the yummy TiVo-brand extras are coming soon to a Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) near you. The retail-and-entertainment partners will not only promote each other heavily, but are also looking into ways to build TiVo technology into its store brand line televisions.

That's another way to remove a set-top device from your entertainment center. And when it comes to consumer sales, convenience is king. The more functionality that can be baked into the TV itself, the more likely we are to actually use those features. Yes, even if we have to pay a subscription fee to TiVo, Netflix, or others in order to activate the rich-media goodness.

Industry implications
So, that's obviously great news for companies that sell third-party set-top boxes today, like TiVo. But it takes just a tiny leap to arrive at another investable conclusion here.

If you can build a TiVo into the TV set today, then what's stopping Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) from doing the same? In fact, the cable industry already has a defined standard called tru2way, which aims to replace that bulky cable box with a sleek plug-in card, integrated directly into the TV set.

The abundance of Netflix and TiVo technology deals -- we've only looked at the latest couple of announcements here -- proves to me that the industry is ripe to make that switch. The cable guys and their shareholders should be all excited about the idea, too: Every time Comcast has to send a technician out to install another set-top box, there are both hardware and service costs to consider. Sure, the customer will eventually pay it all back, with interest, but it takes over a year before a newly installed box becomes a profit center for the cable provider.

I love the smell of cash in the morning!
Multiply the combined costs per installation by 24 million customers, most of whom also watch TV in more than one room, and the potential cost savings inherent in cheaper and less intrusive installations rack up pretty quickly. If I were Time Warner or one of its rivals, I'd be sweating bullets to get tru2way technology into every living room in my market area ASAP.

The set-top box is dying, and we'll all be happier when it's gone. Yes, Rick -- even you.

Further Foolishness:

Best Buy and Netflix are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. Best Buy is also a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation, and The Fool even owns shares of Best Buy. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Netflix, but he holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check out Anders' holdings or a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.