Conventional wisdom is that the visual entertainment media are nowhere near as stupid as their brethren in the music industry. They’ve seen the Net coming. They’re not going to make the same mistakes the record labels did.
Then there’s that old saw that content is king. This is a fiction spread by the makers of entertainment which is further disseminated by writers and talking heads who feel self-satisfied repeating it. DISTRIBUTION is king, never EVER forget this.
Let’s make it simple. You’re the new Beatles. If no one can hear your material, you’re never going to make it. This was the fear the labels foresaw with the Internet. They’d lose their control over distribution. Used to be you had to be aligned with a major to get your records in a store, even more important, get PAID! But if anybody can put their wares up online, if anybody can get paid at the iTunes Store, the majors lose a lot of their power.
We’ve been hearing about the merger between the computer and the television for over a decade. The truly educated are doubting this will ever happen. Because the experiences are so different. Surfing your computer is active, watching your TV is passive. But there is a big challenge. How do you get the content from your computer on to your beautiful HD screen?
The content companies don’t want you to. They’re not licensing for Apple TV, even though Steve Jobs says Apple considers that product a "hobby". They didn’t even want Cablevision to deliver programs on demand. They’re all about preserving their business model.
But the TV companies do see they’ve got to make a Web play. And now you can stream seemingly every network show online not long after it airs. Sometimes in incredible quality. Some might say you lose that experience of being part of mass culture by not watching a show when it’s first broadcast. But the truth is so few people watch any of these shows today that almost none are mass cultural experiences. Everything is niche. Except maybe the Super Bowl and "American Idol". If you can find the time to watch a show on Hulu, that’s just fine by many.
And it’s not only the current shows. There are archives of oldies all over the Web. And if you’re willing to go to the dark side, you can get literally everything on BitTorrent, even the pay cable shows.
Okay, so this is today’s reality. You’re paying somewhere between $25 and $75 for your broadband Internet connection. And another $45 to $110 for your television cable access. And the country’s in a recession. And maybe you’re a student, or you’ve lost your job, and you’re looking to save some pennies. What if you could just stream those TV shows from the Web on your flat panel, any old TV. You could cancel your TV cable and save real money.
But we all know the TV and cable companies would never let this happen. And they didn’t. Rather, entrepreneurs made it possible, without even asking.
That’s what Boxee does. Not only does it send Web broadcasts to your regular TV, it even does so via Apple TV, a process entertainment producers have not authorized.
Experts say Boxee is legal.
The main complaint of the cable companies? THERE’S NO BUSINESS MODEL!
Can you say "Napster"?
P.S. The product, in Alpha release, now being utilized by 200,000, although we know how fast products like this can grow, was developed first for Mac OS X and Linux. In other words, the company started off where the cognoscenti live, where the risk-takers/early adopters play. Used to be everything started on Windows. The Mac world hasn’t been first with third party developers since the 80′s. However, never forget, this is not a business product, not something Dell commoditizes and corporations snap up in droves. Rather, Boxee is for the home. And home penetration of Macs is positively staggering.