Boxee CEO: ‘I’m not sure people want everything on demand’

“Boxee CEO Avner Ronen has been trying to reinvent TV for years now — first by building software for hacked Xboxes and PCs, then with the funky Boxee Box media streamer, and now with his first mainstream product, the Boxee TV,” Nilay Patel reports for The Verge. “We spoke about the future of the industry — and the future of Boxee.”

I’m not sure people want everything on demand. They still want some things live, like sports or reality TV. And there’s the water cooler effect that this generation is also experiencing via Twitter — there’s value in watching a show live if there’s a conversation going on on Twitter or Facebook. So I think there is still a lot of value in live.

I don’t think people care really if they get their shows through the internet or IPTV or satellite. They care what device they can watch it on, how much it costs, and what quality it is, but not necessarily who they’re getting it from. If everybody had access to the same content on a level playing field and we competed over marketing and user experience — you’d see a much more competitive landscape. – Boxee CEO Avner Ronen

Much more in the full article here.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Fred Mertz” for the heads up.]


  1. Where’ve we heard this before?? Oh yes, I remember: “We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” he said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.” Former CEO of (now dead) Palm, Inc.

    1. And that’s exactly what they did. Hubris is a killer. It is comical in a cartoonish way, one moment these ex-CEO’s are smoking and brandishing a fine cigar making boastful comments and the next minute it explodes in their face and they’re out on the street.

    1. Not going to happen… unless the government steps in to “protect” consumer interests. Then the ultimate result of that for most people will be them paying as much (or more) and getting less.

      On the bright side however, you will be able to get just the channels you want.

      Although it’s possible for any particular individual’s total ala carte costs to be less than current bundle rates (something I wouldn’t expect to last more than a few years at best), it’s just as likely total ala carte costs will be higher than bundled, per-channel prices. Those who want ala carte may pay a special fee for the privilege.

      On the bright side however, you will be able to get just the channels you want.

      Getting individual consumers just the channels they want won’t be as simple as just flipping a few switches or coding a few lines of software along the delivery system, or new cards for a receiver. It will require receiver units with a bit more sophistication. That’s going to cost.

      Bundled costs-per-channel run an average of about 35¢ up to 55¢ per channel at current typical satellite rates. If anyone expects ala carte rates per channel to be the same, I have a bridge to sell them… it’s a great investment.

      For ala carte, expect to pay at least double (triple or even quadruple) the current per channel rate… and that’s just for starting out. Those rates will likely increase as often as they do now for bundle prices.

      As time goes by and more people buy into the supposed savings of ala carte pricing, expect the cable/satellite providers to realize they are sitting on a gold mine. Bundled price plans will go the way of the cell industry’s “unlimited data” plans.

      On the bright side however, you will be able to get just the channels you want.

      And one more thing, expect variable channel pricing. Popular channels will have higher rates than less popular ones

  2. Calling any television program “live” is a joke. “Live” means being present at the venue in person, everything else I want to watch wherever and wheneven I possibly can on demand. Avner Ronen needs to think outside the “box”.

    Another thing, “reality TV” isn’t.

    1. While I agree that ‘reality TV’ ain’t (in fact, anyone responsible for these atrocities should be drawn and quartered), calling real time broadcasting ‘live’ seems to me to be valid. What would you call it?

      1. TV is mostly pre-recorded. So television broadcasting is a kind of slow, sequential distribution of content that’s just sitting there on a hard drive at a broadcast facility.

        If it weren’t for TV’s strange business model — negotiating broadcast rights and/or creating original content, to display one after another on their narrow channel, leaving lots of filler to keep the overall content costs down, and then forcing viewers to spent 1/3 of the time watching poorly-targeted ads to pay for it all — you could dream up a better way to deliver television content in no time.

        It’s broken.

        There will always be grazers. So iTunes & Netflix is not the whole answer. TV will be forced to evolve, but slowly.

        1. Until a very large revenue source that is different from the current TV advertising model comes along there won’t be much change. There’s too much money involved in advertising.

          1. That’s very true. In particular, there are some high revenue broadcasts that are only valuable live (@Macfreek – I really can’t believe you are that much of a literalist), eg sports. Even if advertising worked as effectively on demand as live, such events would essentially be impossible to transition away from the advertising model. This creates a barrier to even wanting to evolve away from the model.

            1. Baseball is trying, and is fairly successful. With apps (iPad for now, but AppleTV soon), you could have fans pay for the season, or pay for a game. No advertising necessary (or if advertising is included it could be secondary to the core business model, and better targeted too).

              Most things in life aren’t ad supported. TV just ended up that way because of the realities of the original medium (free reception of a broadcast signal). That’s no longer a constraint.

            2. MLB has ads on its AppleTV channel. Plus, it’s app is designed for those who are outside of their favorite team’s market and is really designed as an alternative viewing, not a replacement. The fact is MLB doesn’t have nearly the TV audience football does, so it will never command the viewers.

    2. Absolutely right he is drawing a line that does not in a real sense exist. Nearly all programming is pre-recorded when broadcast and all this and live content can be seen ‘on demand’ potentially as and when the viewer decides only its cost could/should fluctuate upon that timing. On demand simply means you don’t HAVE to watch it at the moment it would be broadcast, but you may well chose (demand) to watch it at the time when the event takes place. The principle is exactly the same its just that non live content doesn’t actually have to be broadcast at all at a given time.

      To add to this point I believe the Olympics though a live event was rarely actually shown live in the US making a mockery of the idea of broadcast TV because it then takes away any argument for the logic of broadcast TV at all.

  3. I think the more important issue is that the networks don’t want all of its shows available on demand. Networks love it when people host American Idol parties, Super Bowl parties, or must watch an episode of a show at the same time each week so it becomes “can’t miss” TV (you can DVR it, but you don’t want to be that guy who didn’t watch the hit show that night and can’t discuss it the next day).

    That’s a much more determining factor than consumers wanting things on demand, because in truth the demand for on demand isn’t that demanding right now.

  4. You all alter the semantics to fit your narrow views. Of course, most tv isn’t live. But broadcasting at a specified time creates a common experience for viewers. Since most people spend much time in front of TVs, that shared experience is important in the socialization process. Boxee is trying a very intriguing made here. It will be interesting how it all plays out.

  5. On demand is great for catching up. Live TV usually sucks as you have to suffer through commercials. The DVR solves that. As for the comment about the superbowl above, that is once a year and those commercials are usually worth watching. As for normal football games, I DVR it, and start a couple of hours late to be able to skip the commercials. Just don’t chek the internet for scores and you’ll be OK.

  6. Zeke is right.

    However, there is no problem, in an On Demand model, with treating a live Stream as just another Demand choice, with a premium price if it is a popular sports venue – people WILL pay for that!

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