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.