Idan Cohen: What we should expect from TV
Idan Cohen talked at Thinc Iowa about how his startup aims to address the shortcomings of traditional TV.
Providing a cheaper and more user-friendly and integrated option for watching television is Cohen's mission and the reason he founded Boxee, a freeware media player software platform. Boxee released its first software in mid-2008 and added the Boxee Box hardware two years ago.
Television: A big business
The average American watches four hours of television per day, and the television industry is worth approximately $162 billion per year, Cohen said. The Internet is now making the television industry more complex, he said, with TV alternatives like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu and Vudu readily available.
"We've seen what happens when the internet takes over an industry: it kind of blows up," Cohen said, citing the music, publishing and newspaper industries as examples.
Something was missing
The television industry has yet to be disrupted, Cohen said. He believes the breach in the industry will be in the basic channels like ABC, NBC and CBS that are open to everyone, cable subscription or not. "Most of what we're watching is available for free," he said. He cited statistics that show 89 of the top 100 shows and 80 percent of all DVR recordings are on broadcast channels, not cable channels.
Cohen said that while cable bills keep rising, the cable industry is notorious for bad customer service, bad user experience and bad business practices.
A better alternative for some
Cable television subscriptions are comprised of broadcast television plus the cable channels plus a cable box with DVR, Cohen said. So he set out to replace that with an offering that consists of broadcast television plus internet applications and services.
"Boxee's offerings should be attractive to about 30 percent of households," Cohen said. Cable channels such as ESPN, HBO and Showtime are not available in his Boxee equation.
"It's not going to solve it for everyone," he said, "but even if we can take a bite out of (the cable) industry, that's still a very sustainable business for us."
Boxee is available for $179 plus a $49 tuner, and it provides what Cohen describes as a very sleek, integrated viewing experience. Considering that cable television is often the third or fourth largest household expense, Boxee can reduce something significant and offer a better alternative, Cohen said.
What we should expect from TV
When you sit down in front of the television to watch your favorite show — with the integration of the basic broadcast channels that Boxee provides — you can not only watch your show but also see what other episodes of the program are available on the network's website and what friends are watching the same show at the same time.
Cohen closed his talk with an anecdote about how he watched the presidential debate and was thrilled to see how many of his friends were watching the debate at the same time. It sparked additional conversations online and off that he otherwise wouldn't have had.
"This is the kind of experiences we should expect from TV," he said. "And it's not what we get today."
Updates Oct. 16 - The story was updated to remove a quote that, out of context, was misleading regarding Boxee's orgins. Also, the headline was changed to more accurately reflect Boxee's mission.
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