CBS Sidesteps Apple TV, Will Sell Shows on Boxee

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CBS Interactive will be making full-length episodes of its shows available on Boxee’s media center software and supporting connected devices. The deal represents the first time Boxee has partnered with a broadcast TV company to make its shows available for purchase, and could soon give the startup exclusive ability to offer full-length episodes from all four major broadcasters.

CBS is no stranger to working with Boxee, as it had an app on the media center software long before other premium content providers like Hulu or Netflix came on board. However, its TV.com app was primarily for perusing TV-based metadata, like TV, actor and director information, and wasn’t really a place to watch video. The new CBS app will change that; according to Boxee, full-length episodes will be made available for purchase through a CBS-branded app later this year.

While Boxee says “users will have the ability to purchase hit CBS television shows both current (The New Hawaii Five-O) and old (hello MacGyver!),” it’s not clear if the on-demand episodes would be considered rentals or purchases, and Boxee is mum on episode pricing.

What is clear is that Boxee users could soon have access to content that isn’t available through other connected devices, such as Apple TV or Google TV-powered TVs and Blu-ray players. In fact, late last year when Apple introduced the new Apple TV, the company cut the price of TV episodes in half, making streaming rentals available for 99 cents instead of the previous $1.99 that consumers paid to own those episodes through iTunes.

The service launched with 99-cent rentals from ABC and Fox, with CEO Steve Jobs promising other broadcasters would see the light and agree to the new pricing scheme. Despite Jobs’ insistence that other programmers would soon jump on board with Apple TV, CBS is still a holdout, which is one reason we believe that CBS episodes made available through Boxee will carry a $1.99 purchase price tag most TV programmers had previously agreed on.

Boxee users could soon have access to programming from all four of the major broadcasters, through a combination of subscriptions and on-demand purchases. The startup previously announced that it had struck a deal with Hulu to bring full-length episodes from ABC, Fox and NBC available through its Hulu Plus subscription offering.

The latest deal follows Boxee’s plan of making its software available for free to consumers and to connected device manufacturers, and betting on future revenues coming in from the sale of apps, videos, games and premium features. So far that plan appears to be working, as it now has two connected device manufacturers — D-Link and Iomega — making boxes with its software embedded, and it just announced this morning it will also be available on Viewsonic TVs.

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