While much of the reason behind cable-subscriber losses have largely been related to the poor housing market and the weak economy, even large cable company executives are starting to acknowledge some form of cord-cutting is taking place as over-the-top broadband video captures younger TV viewers. Boxee, which has been working mightily to get people to cut their cable cords with its own broadband box for five years, is preparing a new add-on product in January that will let users pull out the cable cord and plug a USB device into their cable box, giving them access to broadcast TV channels like ABC (NYSE: DIS), CBS (NYSE: CBS), Fox (NSDQ: NWS), and NBC (NSDQ: CMCSA) for free.
As most people recognize when their cable is out, viewers don’t need pay TV service to watch over-the-air broadcast stations. However, unless they have a very strong antenna, the channels are virtually unwatchable. So one of the attractions of cable is having crystal clear reception of non-pay TV offerings, including HD. And although cable companies do offer the chance to access broadcast channels through the cable box for a small fee, it isn’t often publicized. As such, Avner Ronen, CEO & co-founder of Boxee, believes the forthcoming Boxee Live TV dongle will encourage more users to cut their cord.
“The problem with canceling your cable subscription and relying just on the internet has been the lack of live sports, a presidential address, local news, special events and live TV shows,” Ronen told paidContent. “But these things are all available on broadcast TV channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC for free, over the air in HD. The Boxee Live TV lets people watch them all on their Boxee Box. If you live and die by ESPN, then yes, you have to stay on cable. But we believe there are plenty of people who just want access to regular broadcast channels.”
The Live TV stick is being sold for $49, on top of the $179.99 for the full Boxee Box.
“Cable companies keep telling the press and investors that “cord cutting” is not real, and that if it exists then it’s limited to people who can no longer afford cable,” Ronen said in a blog post. “We are sure they are conducting objective and unbiased research, but we are meeting more and more “cord never getters” and “cord cutters” every day. They are more than just people tightening their belts in tough economic times, these are people who have left cable TV behind because it does not fit their lifestyle. They are part of a changing culture, with a changing expectation of how they watch the shows they love.”