Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Boxee Sells Live TV (That You Already Get for Free) With a Big Dose of Cord-Cutting Rhetoric

Boxee has a new $50 gadget that makes it easier to toggle between broadcast TV and Web video options. CEO Avner Ronen has a blog post explaining/selling the doodad, but for me the rollout is a good chance to get Ronen to update us on the state of Boxee, and “over the top”/cable-free video in general. (Also, a good chance to say “dongle.” Always fun.)

Over the past few years, Ronen has flipped back and forth as he positions his company. Initially, he sold Boxee’s software as a way to help nerds watch video without having to pay for cable; then, as he attracted the attention — and ire — of many TV programmers he wanted to work with, he toned that rhetoric down.

Now he’s turned it back up. “This is a cord-cutting device,” he says in person, and the company’s marketing materials drive that home (see the image above).

Ronen claims that 2 million people a month use some combination of his gadget or his software. He says half of them have either cut the cord or never bought one in the first place — that is, they’ve never paid Comcast, Time Warner Cable or anyone else for a video subscription (though they’re almost certainly paying them for broadband).

Pitching yourself as the cord-cutter’s pal is an excellent way to attract attention, but it will make it hard to ever make headway with the big content guys who make a lot of money from cable.

Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that while Boxee announced it had a deal with Hulu a year ago, the video service’s subscription service has yet to appear on Ronen’s box. (Reminder: Hulu is still owned by a joint venture that includes Disney, Comcast and News Corp., which also owns this site.)

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work