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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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8 Comments

  • Aga

    truth of the matter, OTA TV has been free. Now we have private interest plying industry rags with headlines like this? 
    Come on Fast company--catch up to the present world.It was the publics ownership of the airwaves in the first place and the FCC that mandated that those lucky private licensees,(ie the networks ) respect the public good and locally originated content and interests.now its just a free for allso so content, live (pointless sports) talking head news coverage and  endless ads about drugs / chemicals we need or should take, products that highlight our respective shortcomings and even more chemicals ( masking as household products, foods,etc)And now is thats not enough, the powers that be, want to charge us monthly fees to be bombarded with that crap?I say, let the revolution begin.

  • Daxmar

    sounds like a plea to the industry - or maybe a veiled opening for buyout talks to begin, as their investment money from VC is getting old, and well, you know those pesky investors want a return on their money.

  • Jlkshore

    as long as I don;t have to pay for advertising.
    broadcast TV is free because of Commercials
    Cable, satellite, etc, was more customized programs without commercials
    who wants to pay $100 amonth to watch ads
    Now you have as many as free TV
    Then there was VCR/DVD rentals then netflix and TIVO
    Who wants to waite time listening to ads when I can do that on regular TV
    You Tube is starting to get polutted with ads
    Thansk God there is skip ad or functioin key features.

    Downloads should be paid for just like music and photos and video as well as movies.
    I support the Arts but to pay for advertising to buy a product at full retail is a joke.

    Hence Groupon.

    Artists don't need middlemen unless they provide exposure, like iTunes.

    People know value. Give them Value.

  • Ben

    Avner is a complete sellout.  All this talk of cord-cutting, when in reality he was just desperate to get his box in your living room to take a piece of the subscription pie.  How nice.

    First it was using the boxee community as beta-testers, then it was stealing GPL licensed software for profit, then talking about monthly fees for boxee's DVR service, and finally he gets into bed with Comcast and unravels FCCs prior stance on Clear QAM channels.  What a dickhead.  

  • hdmkv

    Agree. Boxee can't decide who to cater to, and they want to please everyone. In the process, they're coming up short on all counts. The box itself hasn't been updated in ages and Boxee has even stopped communicating with us users about bugs and other issues. Look no further than the Boxee Box section of http://forums.boxee.tv. As a local content streamer, broken HD audio, outdated movie/TV database, etc. As a online streamer, broken apps. As for focus, or lack of, stupid wastes of time like road trips, Cloudee, etc.

  • Guest

    Yep he sure is. Read about the argument he had with the maverick Mark Cuban few years ago on cord cutting