Boxee Wants To Be Your DVR?

Dave Zatz —  March 2, 2011 — 11 Comments

Boxee put out a funding press release yesterday, in what amounts to $16.5 million of fresh cash. These sorts of announcements don’t generally motivate us to write. While money’s always changing hands, and this seems like a notable bet on Internet video, we’re more interested in tangible products. But what caught my attention was this one sentence:

We would also like to see Boxee handle all the video on a TV with no need to switch inputs.

And that sentiment is corroborated by my CES conversation with CEO Avner Ronen:

Last, but not least, as I was admiring the funky little D-Link Boxee Box I mentioned to Avner that it’d be real nice to have a Boxee Box with a tuner… and he agreed.

Given the current US landscape, they’d be crazy to go the CableCARD route as a means of channeling digital cable. But I’m willing to bet there’s a market for a well-done Internet-connected media box that also happens to tune ATSC OTA content… without a TiVo-esque subscription fee. But would they merely tune local broadcasts or would Boxee also provide DVR capabilities? Also, could we attach an USB accessory onto the existing and upcoming Boxee boxes or would this require an entirely new piece of hardware?

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11 responses to Boxee Wants To Be Your DVR?

  1. Geoffrey Sperl March 2, 2011 at 8:47 am

    “I’m willing to bet there’s a market for a well-done Internet-connected media box that also happens to tune ATSC OTA content.”

    I’m 100% sure there is such a market.

    Actually, if Boxee (or anyone else) had the STB look at the user’s LAN for a media server with a tuner or video capture device attached to it, then it could just allow streaming from the server to the media box (and control of the tuner in the other direction). It would probably be something like Apple allowing apps on the Apple TV (and Elgato creating an Apple TV version of their EyeTV iOS app).

    I would definitely get behind a box that allows for functions like that (and allows me to purchase and download new seasons of cable shows ala carte). Apple, I think, is in the best position… but their lack of movement with the Apple TV’s content makes me think either: 1) their talks with the studios and the networks have stalled indefinitely; or 2) there’s something big coming soon (maybe rolled into today’s ipad announcement since it’s all iOS?).

  2. I kind of thought that’s where Sezmi was headed.

  3. Except Sezmi bit off more than they could chew by initially trying to resell (SD) cable over-the-air, market by market. And working deals with telecoms that never materialized. Seems like they’ve since dumped those elements of their business, but the damage is done – they’ve got product with a large foot print and relatively no buzz… Perhaps I should check in for a loaner and see where they are these days. A poster on the TiVo Community forum jusst said a lot of the kinks have been ironed out.

  4. Jeff, I just got a sezmi, and their ecosystem/UI is definitely laid out in such a way that they could very elegantly expand to integrate other Internet options. However, I doubt they’ll reach the critical mass to ever get there. Too bad as it’s a fantastic dvr. Hopefully someone like boxee with a little more heat either comes up with their own ota dvr or merges/buys sezmi’s tech.

  5. Actually CableCARD support wouldn’t be so crazy if SD would actually release the HDHomeRun Prime. Because it is a network based tuner, all Boxee would have to do is use UPnP to find the tuner and control it like any other video stream. The DRM is just PlayReady which is the same that Netflix streaming uses.

  6. Yeah, but right now the only authorized way to tap into that feed is through pricey and time consuming cable industry certification. Perhaps the FCC’s proposals will take hold to open all this up and make it more economical for companies to take a risk. Because it is a risk… given the the mainstream consumer’s ignorance of CableCARD tech (along with install and SDV support hassles).

  7. “Because it is a risk… given the the mainstream consumer’s ignorance of CableCARD tech (along with install and SDV support hassles).”

    Well, as to the second part, the FCC certainly seems to be making an active attempt to address those issues.

    And if the second part is solved, the first part will take care of itself…

  8. Given that I use TiVo Premiere XL just do record OTA HD, I’m most definitely interested in something like this. Actually, it’s kind of crazy that there are no standalone boxes to record OTA HD. Dish had one, but it was discontinued, wasn’t it?

    Best solution, though, would be what Ben suggested — tap into HDHomeRun’s tuner if licensing can be worked out. Ceton has USB tuner coming out as well, but Boxee would need to write drivers, etc.

  9. Ivan, the Sezmi referenced above (no I don’t work for them!) is basically an OTA only HD DRV. Comes with 1TB of space & a pretty good antenna.

    FWIW, I’m likely cutting cable and severing ties with my Tivo HD and will pay them Sezmi $5/mo to record my OTA HD shows. I honestly think the box’s HD UI is that superior to Tivo. Plus, they seem to be actively improving the unit, something Tivo doesn’t appear to be interested in doing with the Premiere.

    You can get Sezmi for $150 at Amazon or Best Buy. I recommend checking it out if you’re using Tivo for only OTA like me.

  10. Ben said exactly what I was going to write. The HDHomeRun Prime integrated with the Boxee Box is a killer app. Roku should consider this strategy as well. Wouldn’t be surprised to see SiliconDust get acquired.

  11. I’m also a Sezmi customer. Overall it’s a very good DVR that comes with a 1TB Hard Drive. PPV movies are available the same day as DVD. HD movies look great. Each family member has their own profile. So when you enter your profile you only see your DVR’ed shows and not the kids cartoons or the wife’s soap operas.

    Having said all that since they decided to drop the cable channels here in Los Angeles when my 6 months of free service ends i’m dropping the service (they gave us this as an incentive to not drop the service).

    The cable channels were the only reason for me buying the box in the first place (MLB and NBA Playoffs). It’s a great DVR but I already own a WMC machine. And I can record 4 shows at the same time with my WMC machine. Can expand storage as needed (2tb as of now). And I have access to everything the internet has to offer. So sadly Sezmi is just gathering dust.

    There were rumors that Sezmi was/ is planning to come back with the cable lineup but this time the delivery method would be IP based. This would be ideal since they would be able to provide better picture quality then they did when they were delivering them through OTA (which was overly compressed). If this happens before my 6 months are up i’ll keep the service.

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