Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at 11:04 am.

Boxee TV, $15/month ‘unlimited’ DVR for network shows

The latest gadget from Boxee, following up to its Boxee Box, which was a modest success. Solid, pretty coverage at the Verge.

  1. Hard to see this becoming a big, mainstream hit. The set of people who only want to record network TV shows (via an antenna), have fast-enough bandwidth to upload all that video to a server somewhere, and who insist on not having cable/satellite TV service seems pretty small. (You’ll probably see some praise today among the cord-cutting Twitter elite, but most people still watch too much TV — and want at least some cable programming — to make this a suitable replacement.) Anyway, the network TV shows are typically the ones that are already the easiest to stream on-demand via Hulu, Netflix, network sites and apps, etc. But millions of people DVR them already, so that’s a reasonable service to offer.
  2. $15/month for “unlimited” DVR of only network TV seems steep, but not crazy. (In NYC, Aereo’s monthly plans for a somewhat similar service — with storage limits — are $8 or $12/month.) I only share my DVR with one other person, and we don’t run out of storage space, so the “unlimited” pitch doesn’t do much for me. Our bigger problems are: Wanting to use more than two tuners at a time (watching a third channel while two shows are recording) and that Time Warner Cable’s DVR doesn’t reliably start and end the recording on time, often clipping off the end of a show. Boxee TV doesn’t seem to fix these.
  3. The pipe matters. The company driving these Boxee DVR uploads and downloads is typically the company that wants to sell you TV service, whether it’s a cable company like Comcast or Time Warner Cable, or a phone company like Verizon or AT&T. This is exactly the sort of service, if successful, that will lead to metered broadband access and consumption-based billing.
  4. Boxee’s user interface thinking, at least as a casual observer, continues to be its most impressive asset. (It would be more interesting if, somehow, I could access my entire cable subscription from this box. Will that ever happen?) Its most likely “exit” will still be to a cable or set-top box company, to help bring their UI up to modern standards. But who and when, and in what shape?

Anyway: Interesting stuff, as always, from Boxee. But after considering a product and service like this, it’s clear how powerful the cable companies still are.