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Photo by Jordan Hollender

Why Boxee CEO Says TV Should Not Be Free

The price of cable TV continues to grow. Better online video content and streaming devices have spawned cord-cutters. What do these movements mean for the future of TV? Disrupters and cable insiders talk to Jennifer Armstrong.

Avner Ronen

CEO, Boxee

Boxee’s recent tuner add-on lets users of the Boxee Box—an open-source media-streaming device—watch HD broadcast stations on their televisions.

The Reformed Cord-Cutter

"When we started, we weren’t as intimately familiar with how this industry worked. Just telling people, ‘Yeah, you should go ahead and cut the cord’ without being able to watch the Olympics or the American Idol finale doesn’t work. That’s why we decided to concentrate on providing the broadcast networks to our users. What we’ve seen is that the broadcast networks are still very dominant; 96 of the top 100 shows last year were broadcast. If you can offer ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, and add them to Netflix and Hulu and YouTube, for many people that would be a great experience. And a more affordable one.

Long term, if you look at the media industry, there’s reason for content producers to be extremely optimistic. The Internet created some havoc, but it also made it much easier for artists to have a direct relationship with viewers. Louis CK sold his comedy-show video online for $5, directly to his fans. He also offered tickets for his show live at the venue and cut out the middleman. That’s putting a lot of pressure on intermediaries because it used toa be a lot harder to connect demand to supply. If I used to spend $75 on my cable bill, and now I’m spending $20 that goes right to Louis CK or the NBA or whatever it is I’m passionate about, I have more control.

We believe that content makers need to be compensated for their work. We’re not advocating that the future of TV should be free. Stuff is being produced for YouTube that is getting better, and stuff is being produced on the very high end that is getting even better. We have to make sure the incumbents understand: We are not trying to destroy their business.

I think big changes are coming. It’s a humongous industry. Compared with music and publishing, it dwarfs them. And it has a huge effect on culture."

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