Boxee is promising to let cable watchers cut the cord without cutting live TV service. The company is working on a new add-on to its set-top box, known as the Boxee Box, that will roll out in January.
Boxee CEO Avner Ronen described the add-on as a Live TV dongle that lets you connect an antenna to your Boxee Box to watch channels like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC in high definition with no monthly fees. The Live TV stick is pre-selling for $49.
"If you are like us then the way you watch TV has changed. The stuff on Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Vudu, Vimeo keeps getting better and you can watch it everywhere," Ronen wrote in the company blog. "You end up watching less traditional TV, but continually pay more for it, which doesn't make much sense."
Hitting Pain Points
Ronen hit a pain point for thousands of TV cable subscribers, followed by another: canceling your cable subscription and relying solely on the Internet has traditionally translated to life without live sports, local news, special events and live TV shows. Right about then, Ronen suggested his solution: Boxee Live TV.
"Last year, 89 of the top 100 shows were on broadcast networks -- they remain the most popular channels on cable," Ronen said, ticking down a list that includes the Superbowl, the World Series, the Oscars, the Grammys, presidential debates and addresses, and the Olympics.
Ronen's point is, although there are hundreds of cable channels most people actually watch the broadcast networks -- and the rest is available on streaming content services. His point may be well taken by the cable subscribing masses, many of which pay $85 a month or more. Even by combining several streaming services, consumers could pay less than their monthly cable bill.
The Holy Boxee?
"The Holy Grail is for one of these products to displace the cable box, not to supplement it," said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group. "People are not excited about paying for one more product nor the complexity of switching between boxes. Boxee makes it simple. It's an alternative to the cable box and it's cheaper because the live TV is free. It does provide a price advantage and a way to get around the cable companies."
Of course, there is a downside. Many cable companies have also become Internet service providers and are bundling cable with Internet and sometimes even Voice over Internet Protocol services. If consumers start unbundling their cable TV service from their high-speed Internet service, Enderle said the result could be a price hike that could erode any savings they might expect from the Boxee Box solution, at least in the near-term.
"Boxee is not making this into a DVR since they still want you to get any of the delayed programs the way you've been getting them through Boxee. This closes the gap on live, which is something that you couldn't do with Boxee before," Enderle said. "For folks that haven't had access to cable service but have had access to Internet this should be a godsend. For the rest of us that have access to both it just makes Boxee a better choice."