Boxee CEO Avner Ronen Drops Serious TV Knowledge - VIDEO

April 23, 2013

I recently caught up with Boxee CEO Avner Ronen at NAB in Las Vegas. 

We spoke about the longstanding tensions between traditional media companies and new technologies, the Boxee Cloud DVR, and the recent lawsuits filed against tiny-internet-tv-antenna company Aereo.
Boxee recently renamed its hardware from "Boxee TV" to "Boxee Cloud DVR," in an effort to differentiate itself from other set-top-boxes on the market.
Boxee is also rolling out a fermium pricing model, offering its viewers five hours of DVR playback for free, as well as unlimited playback for ten bucks a month.
Highlights from our conversation are below, and you can watch the video at the top of this post. 

Original Bad Boys

GF: You guys were kind of the bad boys of new TV, right?
AR: True.
GF: Is Boxee still throwing punches, or are you guys playing nice now? Because you were able to team up with Comcast and played nice with them.
AR: I think we're nicer. 
GF: Right.
AR: It's hard to completely change your skin. 
I think we figured out a way in which we can still be innovative -- [Boxee] Cloud DVR is doing a lot of things first that haven't been done before -- but we're doing it in a way that is more in line with the business interests of the incumbents. 
So, for example, for broadcasters, what we offer is the prospect of doing dynamic ad insertion on DVR, which is almost impossible to do with hard drives in the home, but it is very easy to do when all of the recordings are stored in the cloud. That's a real issue for them that we can help solve.
With cable operators, what we can offer is a bring your own box environment where they can have a device like Boxee sit on a second or third TV in the home, and deliver their content in a secure way.
I think we found a balance where we can still innovate, but not in a way that's completely destructive. 
So being disruptive, but not destructive: it's a fine line to walk.

On tensions between traditional and new media . . . 

GF: So Aereo's in the news. They're suing everyone and getting sued. Do you think you should start suing people, to maybe get more press?
AR: I don't know that we're very good at suing. Up until now, we haven't crossed any lines. 
I think that it's a bit unfortunate that -- in many cases -- when there is innovation in the media space, it gets to the courts. It's happened many times before, in music and in video. 
GF: They tried to sue the VCR out of existence!
AR: Cablevision, BetaMax, Dish -- there's lots of litigation around media.
My view is that, in the end, the internet will be the best thing that ever happened to the media industry. But it's going to take time for that to happen. 
In the short term, it may have to get ugly before it gets beautiful again.
We're trying not to cross those lines. I think what Aereo is doing is in many ways very disruptive to the business model. 
They have great innovation in what they've done with antennas, and I hope that there's a business solution to this, rather than letting the courts decide it. That's going to be healthier for everybody.
It's a big business that's getting disrupted. The way I see it, if you're a broadcaster, you have ad revenue that's being challenged by DVRs, you have re-trans fees that are now being challenged by something like Aereo, it's not reasonable to assume that you can continue to operate if you have both of those revenue sources getting attacked. 
There must be some business resolution that respects their need to monetize their content and still takes advantage of what you can do with new distribution methods. 
GF: I couldn't have said it any better myself!  
I want to thank Avner for dropping by the Ooyala Dome at NAB and sharing his perspective with the VideoMind viewers. 
What do you think of Boxee's latest offerings and the tensions between old and new media? Leave a comment below, or tweet us @VideoMind.
As always, thanks for watching!
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