Boxee Launches Cord-Cutting Box

NEW YORK -- A few minutes before announcing plans to deliver content from Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Hulu LLC directly to the TV through its new Internet-fed box, Boxee CEO Avner Ronen recalled meeting with about 30 cable marketing and strategy executives two years ago at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

"We told them about Boxee, and since then we have learned to keep our mouth shut," said Ronen, suggesting cable executives haven't responded favorably to Boxee's business of providing software and hardware that can allow viewers to watch high-definition movies and TV series without a traditional TV subscription. (See Ronen: Boxee Isn't a Cable Killer and Boxee CEO: MSOs Should 'Go Over-the-Top'.)

Several hundred Boxee fans, many of them self-proclaimed cable cord-cutters, gathered at a launch party here Wednesday night. The crowd cheered as Ronen announced deals to deliver high-definition video from Netflix through the $199 Boxee Box. Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) has been taking pre-orders since September. (See Boxee's Strong Start .)

Ronen said Boxee will add a dedicated Netflix button to the remote control that comes with the receiver, which will allow viewers that connect the box to their TVs through an HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) cord to access the service with one click of the remote.

Boxee users will soon get access to Hulu Plus, the $9.99 monthly subscription video service. But it's far from alone. TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), Roku Inc. , and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) Playstation 3 boxes are also getting access to it. (See Hulu Opens Toll Road and TiVo, Roku Hook Up Hulu Plus .)

Still, the arrangement with Hulu is significant for Boxee, since the top Internet video giant has previously blocked Boxee's attempts to deliver its free, ad-supported version directly to the TV. "It's true -- we're friends now," Ronen said. (See The Hulu Situation.)

Jumping Through Hulu Hoops

In addition to supporting HTML5 applications, Ronen said the Boxee Box will also bake in more than a dozen Internet video codecs. Several of the codecs Ronen touted, including MKV, AVI, and AAC, are popular with BitTorrent and other file-sharing services.

Boxee's core strategy is delivering a platform that enables viewers to easily browse and search for high-quality Internet video content delivered through a broadband connection to its new Boxee Box, which is manufactured by D-Link Systems Inc. and is powered by an Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) processor.

Boxee faces competition from much bigger technology companies looking to make a business from helping consumers watch Internet video content on a TV, ranging from TiVo and its new broadband-connected Premiere DVR to new broadband video devices from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL). (See Google TV Guns for Cable Deals and Dish's Google TV Exclusive Will Be Brief .)

Some technology companies that generate most of their revenue from cable operators are also looking to grow their businesses from over-the-top video, including interactive program guide specialist Rovi Corp. , which is making Internet video the key draw of a version of its TotalGuide for consumer electronics manufacturers.

"We’re in a category where some people are both competitors and customers or partners," Rovi VP of marketing Dave Jordan said when asked if he considered Boxee a competitor.

Also worth noting from the launch of the Boxee Box:

  • Boxee unveiled new applications that will allow viewers to watch Web video content, including apps for music video site Vevo, Accuweather, and Vice Magazine.

  • Boxee said the Box can deliver video in the 1080p format at 60 frames per second.

  • While the Boxee event at New York’s Irving Plaza was free, Ronen said several attendees were scammed by someone selling tickets for $10 to the launch party. He offered a free drink ticket to those attendees who were duped. "If you got scammed on this, you get drunk, if you can get drunk on one drink," Ronen told the audience of mostly 20-something men.

    — Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

  • Jase 12/5/2012 | 5:18:50 PM
    re: Boxee Launches Cord-Cutting Box

    I am not surprised to learn about the new products of Boxee since they are doing well in the market. I remembered when I first bought my Boxee TV, it was a great relief in saving a penny and more. I don't have to worry particularly on my monthly cable fee because of Boxee. I considered it as a web-based television system that can save cash and get a lot of the same programming.

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