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Digital Home: Boxee’s Ronen: People Don’t Want To ‘Surf’ Their TVs

As Nielsen’s research showed during the previous Battle for the Digital Home conference panel, hardly anyone is truly cutting their cable cords. But that’s not stopping upstart digital video companies, including executives from Boxee and Roku, from plotting the same course of giving viewers “what they want, when they want it.” That also involves knowing what consumers don’t want. As Avner Ronen, CEO and co-founder of Boxee, noted, when asked about the convergence of online and TV, “People don’t want web browsing on their TV — They’re interested in the content. That’s it.”

Moderator Ernie Sander, executive editor of ContentNext Media, asked the panelists how their companies ultimately differ from the cable companies.

Rovner, who at one point cheekily identified himself as the “12th largest MSO,” said that the key contrast between cable companies and these new video device purveyors is the ability to benefit from social media. “Social media will be bigger than search, because it will impact discovery. That’s what we’re all doing. When people watch videos, it’s mostly from Facebook and Twitter, and that will be the same for how people find premium content.

David Krall, president and COO, Roku, noted something else: the malleability of the broadband delivery systems as represented by his company and Boxee. “Imagine turning on your box and you get whole channels,” Krall said. “It’s a new, fresh experience everyday. Unlike a TV, the software is constantly being updated and upgraded — without having to go out and buy a new device.”

On the other end, though, there’s the issue of dealing with the content creators and networks, as the battle between Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) and Fox over retrans fees highlighted. Jeff Klugman, SVP of products and revenue at TiVo (NSDQ: TIVO), touched on the notion that content has become ubiquitous. “Having a relationship with a particular provider is not all that important anymore,” he said.

But Doug Knopper, co-CEO, Freewheel, clearly disagreed with the view that “content is available everywhere.” Instead, the owner of the content will be able to choose the winners and the losers. “Content will be a big differentiator,” Knopper said. “If Fox finds they get better monetization off of YouTube, you’ll see The Simpsons will be available only on that site and not on another channel. There are going to be places where you don’t find certain programs.”

Speaking of online video sites, Sander asked the panelists who is the one partner they would like to work with. Almost all said Hulu, which is considered a source of frustration for its tight grip on popular programming. “Hulu is the only one with the closed system,” Knopper said.

5 Responses to “Digital Home: Boxee’s Ronen: People Don’t Want To ‘Surf’ Their TVs”

  1. Richard Tobin

    The way I see it possibly panning out is that ‘creative’ individuals and artists, of all schools, start putting material together off their own backs – low-budget experimental works albeit. Maybe hosted in an open-sourced content-management sort of YouTube type environment. From this, viewing traffic will be drawn and the ‘new’ form of media may be spawned.

    I can imaging how some entertainment programming could work and am commercially interested in educational applications.

    For deep pocketed production companies it will be a steep hill to climb without some indie evolution having taken-place and test-run in advance. However reading the quotes from Paul Mitchell, general manager, standards and practices, at Microsoft Entertainment, they would appear to be on the right track and likley saying less than they are thinking too.

    [see Jow Mullin’s article Digital Home: The Content Conundrum—How Does It All Get Paid For?]

  2. Here’s yet another hypothetical worth considering: What if a very compelling series with high production value is launched across the WEB with its own site to be accessed from any enabled device. Let’s say viewers could see the “pilot” free, fall in love with it then could choose to subscribe to the rest for a very nominal fee. The show would be evolutionary as it would have embedded in it several interactive engagement opportunities for the viewer. The show site also becomes a community hive of kindred spirits, a place to hang and connect in between episodes. Could this be
    the “fusion” Mr. Tobin is suggesting?

    It is quite evident that the global audience is quite ready for the content even on the smallest of screens. I see it as kind of a CinemaMicro revo-evolution. Call me crazy but I see it roaring down the tracks of entertainment selectivity. Question is when will deep pocketed producers understand this, embrace this and fund it. In this scenario the first to be first with a winner show will set the bar.

  3. Richard Tobin

    What internet TV can deliver is a whole new paradigm of what ‘content’ actually is. Sure, viewers may not be interested in web browsing on a TV if that means attempting to read news or order their underpants from M&S. They would need the eyes of an eagle – the sit-down computer or tablet will remain yet-a-while to look-after that kind of job.

    The possibilities extend far beyond delivery of on-demand TV style content and media. It is the fusion of the ‘TV-program’ and the ‘computer-program’ that will be the truly alluring offer to which consumers will be drawn. Truly engaging entertainment. Truly interactive media.

    So people will want devices that allow the means to find that new full-dynamic content wherever it maybe. Devices and services that offer limited web browsing ability, locked-down and muted, may quickly become just become tomorrow’s dead-duck. Quack quack!

  4. sofadude

    Great piece, David, but these “box” guys are not getting it. We dont need or want another box with the same content as everywhere else. The value of Web-only video is near zero, and thats the only thing they’ve got to distinguish themselves.