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Scoop: The Boxee Box is getting a live TV tuner

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 (s GOOG) 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 (s LOGI) 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.

23 Responses to “Scoop: The Boxee Box is getting a live TV tuner”

  1. I would love to have ATSC tuner support added to my Boxee Box (hope the dongles aren’t a rip-off!)… but, as Scott mentioned, its usefulness would be very limited unless it could function as a DVR – and since the current platform model is read-only (you can’t write anything to external disks from your Boxee Box), that would be a big change… but I hope this turns out to be a worthwhile feature!

    • Miles Archer

      It snowed here in Western Wisconsin this (wed) morning. I lost the CBS channel as a result. I had to go into my utility closet and reposition my radio shack omni antenna. I tape everything off air with positioned old style VHS recorders, all of which still work fairly perfectly. Some of them are 15 years old. Getting tired of the fluxuation in signal density from digital. I don’t have cable, watch RedBox, Netflix and off-air instead. Costs me $15.99 a month for the Netflix. Occasionally I rent a Red Box. I have more than I have time to watch. And the price is right.

  2. Constable Odo

    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.

  3. gonzo90017

    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.

  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.