Boxee puts the cat among the Pay TV pigeons

Informa has long believed that the winning video platform will be the one that most conveniently blends a mix of Live TV and OTT into one easy-to-use package for consumers. Conventional logic has always been that this would either come from one of four places: a Pay TV provider, one of the big CE OEMs, Apple or Google. These players are the ones with the clout required to both secure content deals, and to pull off the significant technical integration such a play would require. But at CES, the most compelling vision of this future came from a much more unlikely source: Boxee.

For the uninitiated, Boxee began as a piece of cross platform video software; that software is now integrated into two media streaming devices from D-Link and Iomega. What Boxee showed at CES was a live TV tuner. It’s incredibly simple: users buy  a $50 unit, which plugs in to the back of their TV; this simply takes whatever the user is watching and delivers it via the Boxee box and UI.

Crucially Boxee has done no content deals: the device simply takes whatever the user is watching on TV, no matter who a customer’s operator is. This means that your live TV simply sits as a menu option with all of your other OTT offerings. It also means no more having to flick between your Boxee box and your cable or satellite box.

This should be ringing alarm bells for operators. While it may seem counter intuitive to label a live TV device as a cord cutting device, it’s easy to see how some consumers might not want to take the additional sports (Boxee has deals with most of the big US sports leagues) and movie content, if they are to take all their OTT from the same platform.

Boxee may not be the answer for everyone. It is still a little more complex than what the mainstream needs and a few key OTT services – notably Hulu – are still missing. But for Informa’s money, this is the most compelling blend of live TV and OTT that we’ve seen to date. We’d be particularly excited if Boxee adds a DVR, which it says it is considering (although this would be a much harder feature than live to integrate without the support of the operators). And unfortunately for Informa, and anyone else outside North America, it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing this feature rolled out soon, due to the big differences between different Pay TV systems worldwide.

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