Huge news for Boxee Box owners: Boxee will soon release a major update that will include the capability to watch live, free over-the-air HD TV on the device though a USB dongle. We were able to take a first peek at the unreleased feature.

boxee live tv

Boxee Box owners will soon be able to watch live television through the device, with the help of a special USB dongle that functions as a tuner for free over-the-air HD TV signals. The live TV feature is part of a major update to the Boxee platform that is likely going to be rolled out over the coming weeks.

I stumbled across the live TV integration when I was able to obtain an unreleased build of the Boxee 1.5 update earlier this week. Live TV is prominently featured on the Boxee home screen, and the configuration menu promises users the ability to enjoy their “favorite broadcast TV stations through Boxee’s unique social interface.” Check out a video of the new feature below:

It’s worth noting that I wasn’t actually able to watch any live TV with the new version, simply because I don’t have the dongle necessary to receive broadcast signals. I tried to connect an EyeTV One USB TV tuner to my Boxee Box, but the device wasn’t able to find any stations with the tuner.

However, the first glimpse at live TV on Boxee was nonetheless very revealing. A separate live TV entry in Boxee’s setup gives users the ability to enhance their experience “by sharing viewership data with friends.” Boxee has always been big on social and currently allows users to share their favorite videos both with other Boxee users as well as their Facebook friends and Twitter followers. It’s possible that live TV viewing would be shared in a similar fashion, which could turn Boxee into a competitor to check-in services like Miso and GetGlue.

Boxee users will also be able to access their unencrypted basic cable TV feeds with the live TV dongle, but it’s fairly obvious that the company is going to position this as the next big step for cord cutters. Anyone who has tried to juggle live TV and Internet content in the living room knows combining the two is a big deal: Viewers will now be able to watch live and on-demand TV through the Boxee Box without ever needing to switch back and forth between the inputs of their TV set.

Boxee is also squarely positioning itself as an alternative to Google TV by emphasizing free over-the-air broadcasts. Google recently relaunched its TV platform, which also aims to combine live television with Internet content. However, users of devices like the Logitech Google TV set-top-box need a cable box or a similar device from their pay TV provider to access any live TV.

It’s unclear yet when exactly Boxee will release the live TV dongle, and which company it has partnered with to do so. The Boxee build I got to play with looked like it was close to finished, which could mean that Boxee may aim to release the dongle in time for the holidays. Boxee wasn’t available for comment on this story.

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  1. Scott Cranfill Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    Will it have DVR functionality? If not, waste of time.

  2. So if I can’t get reception in my house with a digital antenna then i assume this won’t work either?

  3. Is the 1.5 beta available for consumers/guinea pigs willing to try it out?

    1. No, this hasn’t been released yet.

  4. I’m not buying an extra USB tuner, going back to the past. Why not intergrate services like TVCatchup in the uk?

    No extra hardware needed, just an software update. I will stick to xbmc, though the boxee box is a bit more sexy than my old PC.

  5. I still use Boxee, but it’d been so long since I’ve seen an update that I thought the product was dead.

    1. The “computer” versions of Boxee are basically dead – sounds like they might release another update because they said they would, but they are putting all of their efforts in to the Boxee Box code these days, which has pretty regular (at least quarterly) updates.

      1. I wouldn’t write off the PC version just yet…

      2. This is why I won’t buy the Boxee Box, even though I’m tempted sometimes. When it comes time for a hardware refresh will they just abandon customers of the original box?

  6. Andrew if you have broadband with a cable company you can hook up a tuner to it and get a QAM signal which will get you most of the local channels.

  7. Yeah, why would I want to watch my TV through the box? Only going to make the tv signal worse.

  8. How exactly would that make your signal worse?

    Anyways getting good reception is not as easy as just hooking up an antenna and doing a scan. After trying a number of highly praised indoor antennas and trying everything from different orientations and placements, the only way I was able to get good reception was by having the now defunct Sezmi install a multi-directional antenna in my apartment building. (if I had known how easy it was back then I would’ve done it myself.)

    Since then I have had zero reception issues. I get all the channels available in the Los Angeles area. What i’m getting at is that as Sezmi found out it’s a pain in the ass getting local reception with just an indoor antenna. It’s a good thing most Boxee Box owners are in the geeky crowd as they might be able to put up with and trouble shoot reception issues compared to the average joe.

  9. If you read the article, it’s clear that you can also connect a coax cable to the Boxee ans receive basic, unencrypted cable channels. If you’re trying to cut the cord, that’s probably good enough.

  10. I wish Apple could get the AppleTV working with one of those Elgato USB tuners. I’ve got a nice high-masted roof antenna pointed directly at the Empire State Building which is about 12 miles away and I get excellent digital reception. Apple needs to put that AppleTV USB port to some good use. And yes, DVR functionality would be very nice to have on AppleTV, but highly unlikely to happen.

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