Thursday, December 27, 2012

OTTCONversations: Andrew Kippen, Boxee - Reinventing Broadcast Television

I caught up with Andrew Kippen, VP of Marketing at Boxee, earlier this year at OTTCON 2012 to talk about the future of television and how Boxee is reinventing broadcast TV. In January 2012, Boxee Inc. released Boxee Live TV, a new product that added live TV content from the big networks: NBC, ABC, Fox, CBS to the Boxee experience. According to Kippen, this $50 add-on solution to the Boxee Box combined the best of everything available Over-the-Top and live broadcast TV. However, since my conversation with Kippen, Boxee discontinued the original Boxee Box it released in November 2010, to make way for a new streamlined $99 Boxee TV box, which was met with strong criticism from both Boxee users and technology blogs like and Popular Science.

The new Boxee TV includes an an antenna to pick up live HD channels and added a subscription-based cloud DVR with "no limits" and built-in Internet apps like Netflix, VUDU, YouTube, Vimeo and Pandora. Boxee also struck a deal with Walmart to sell the new Boxee TV device direct to consumers in time for the holidays. Kippen says that Boxee's major consumer markets are the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and is available in 35 countries, giving it a much broader footprint than other companies in the space.

In his recent article, Tim Siglin points out, that two main features of the new Boxee TV aren't even available in all markets.
"For the company to avoid disappointing customers again, it would make sense to have the most important features -- the USP, or unique selling proposition -- ready to go at product launch. Yet, the two primary features still aren't available, almost a month after launch: live television pause and cloud- or network-based DVR (nDVR). Those two features, which the company touts as part and parcel of the "Boxee Rebellion" on its packaging, are not ready for widespread use. In fact, the nDVR functionality that Boxee calls unlimited DVR is only available in beta in eight cities in the United States: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C." 
Siglin added that there's also a mismatch in the Boxee-Walmart retail strategy, because Walmart has a limited presence in many of those urban markets and faces a big hurdle to sell to sell the Boxee TV to its rural markets, where the unlimited DVR service is not yet available.

Although, the Boxee TV blog states that:
"As we begin service in these markets we assume there’s going to a few growing pains so we’re marking the service as BETA, but most users should have full functionality (and it will be FREE during this period)." 
While Boxee continues to innovate its product and strike deals with content providers, many of its early adopters have expressed their frustration at being abandoned. The company started with an agnostic business model and a free software-based OTT social media center and devoted user community, but has phased out the software platform, and locked out popular features and development as the Boxee platform matured over the last few years.

Boxee CEO Avner Ronen wrote on the Boxee blog:
"Our small team has poured our hearts and souls into the Boxee Box and it has been great to meet users from all over the globe. Some loved it, some wanted more features, others complained, but everyone was passionate.  We hope you have enjoyed it and will continue to use it in your living rooms, dens, bedrooms or wherever else you set it up."
Kippen says that Boxee's focus has been to extend the feature set, streamline what they do to make it simpler and easier to use, and bring in as much content as they can. He says that the company has always seen Boxee as an ecosystem play.
"We want to be the experience that you have on your TV, on your mobile device, your tablet," Kippen says. "We could be on a set-top box, Blu-Ray player or game console. We really see Boxee as a great way to access all that content that's coming from the Internet, and now from your antenna or cable system. We do a great job of bringing that all into one place. So I think for us, we would really like to see Boxee in a lot of those different devices, and also powering more innovative experiences between different screens." 
According to Kippen, it all comes back to storytelling, which has grown beyond the traditional linear narrative into a transmedia experience.
"How do we take storytelling to the next level to where it's more than just a TV show, more than just a website or an iPad app," asks Kippen. "How do we create a story arc that goes across all these different platforms?"
Kippen is confident that Boxee can be a great way to experiment and build those experiences out.

About Boxee
Boxee Inc. is helping people fall in love with TV all over again. We believe TV should be personal and delivered on your schedule. That’s why we created the world’s first cloud DVR that allows you to record an unlimited amount of TV programs to the Internet, and then watch on your TV, computer, iPad…pretty much anywhere. Boxee also lets you watch shows from broadcast TV channels and shows & movies from online services like Netflix, VUDU and YouTube. Boxee is made with love in NYC.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

OTTCONversations: John Gildred, SyncTV - OTT Video is Replacing Traditional Broadcast TV

Earlier this year at OTTCON 2012, I met up with John Gildred, Founder and CTO of Silicon Valley-based SyncTV, to discuss how OTT video is replacing traditional broadcast TV. According to Gildred, media consumption methods are changing, and mobile devices and OTT video is the main driver behind the shift. OTT is on the path to replace conventional TV, but for now, it's becoming a strong supplement to legacy broadcast platforms. Gildred says, video is such a focal point of what's going on and live television is going to be a big component too. An important theme in 2012 is making Over-the-Top technology be suitable for a full multi-channel live television services, and VOD, network DVR, accessibility on any device with all the things you would normally expect.

Another trend, Gildred says, is that broadcasters and content providers will seek and leverage OTT cloud-based video services.
"They may know they need a CDN, they know they need an app, but they don't necessarily know how to tie the billing in and the customer management, and the entitlement and the DRM, and there's so many other pieces they don't always know they need to have."
Those other pieces include; flexible CMS, VOD and live transcoding, rights management, availability windows, billing, branded apps, analytics and integration.

Gildred wrote, on the the SyncTV blog,
"As more people begin looking for alternatives to bundled cable subscriptions, some networks are exploring ways to retain the attention of a changing viewer base. A few prominent networks have also released apps for connected- device and TV app stores." "New standards, like MPEG DASH, and initiatives allow digital TV – think digital cable – to be shown over the Internet, and on connected devices. The idea is based on the different ways in which viewers receive content into their homes. Some watch digital TV. Others stream content, but often to a computer, or computer or connected device (and the required pile of hardware and cables) hooked up to a TV. Hybrid broadcasting would allow viewers to watch all of their streaming and digital broadcast content through one device."
The SyncTV provides an OTT platform for broadcasters and content providers for pay TV and pay-per-view. Gildred has experience working with companies like NBC Universal; France’s largest broadcaster, M6; AVAIL-TVN; LimeTV. SyncTV is headquartered in Sunnyvale, California with representatives in France, Spain, UK, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and China. Earlier this, SyncTV's parent company Intertrust Technologies Corporation, signed a patent deal with HTC, giving it a 20% stake in SyncTV.

About SyncTV
SyncTV and its content distribution platform offers video content and service providers a turnkey solution for extending their offerings to millions of viewers across the Internet. SyncTV partners with television networks, broadcasters, content distributors, and content producers worldwide to distribute media across all forms of entertainment media including Internet-enabled connected TVs, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, smartphones, tablets, and more. In addition to Dream Link Entertainment, SyncTV works with many of the world’s top entertainment studios including NBC Universal, Jaroo, Kidlet, Wieder.TV, Aim Flicks, Oasis TV, The Concert Channel and Bollywood Nirvana. Based in Sunnyvale, CA, SyncTV is a subsidiary of Intertrust Technologies Corporation ( For more information, visit or follow @SyncTV on Twitter.