MediaFile

Boxee CEO on the future of TV: Aereo, Cloud DVRs, Netflix and Apple TV, oh my.

Boxee CEO Avner Ronen recently sat down with me for a wide-ranging video interview on the state of television, and its future. His company just released a $99 device that uses the Amazon cloud to give its users an infinitely-sized DVR. If it takes off, the Boxee TV could fundamentally change the way cable customers consume content — and the way they pay for it. Users will also be able to watch their recordings from devices like the iPad. Can Boxee play nice with an industry it’s trying to disrupt? Ronen says yes. But between the Aereo lawsuit and the Apple TV rumor-mill, it’s a crowded, competitive landscape. So, can the company keep competing with the next generation of startups that have the television industry in their targets? Please watch, and find out:

British TV app Zeebox comes stateside

Are your Facebook friends or Twitter followers tired of your incessant posts about The Voice or Game of Thrones? Enter Zeebox, a new app available in the U.S. catered to the most avid TV watchers to keep the conversation going while a show is being aired.

Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company  and its entertainment unit, NBC Universal, are investing in a start-up called “Zeebox”, which makes an app meant to be a so-called “second screen” used by viewers while they are watching television.

The companies declined to provide financial details of Comcast’s stake. UK TV provider BSkyB invested a reported $15 million in the company in January. The free app has already gained some popularity in the UK, where it has 1.5 million users signed up.

Data shows thousands circumvented NBC Olympics coverage

At least one company benefited from Olympics fans in the United States who tried to circumvent NBC’s television coverage during the London Games. AnchorFree, the Mountain View, Calif.-based startup released data to Reuters on Monday showing a major bump in users who installed a product that gives U.S. users an anonymous IP address in the United Kingdom. Presumably the people who signed up for the product, called ExpatShield, used it to watch BBC’s online streams of the Olympics.

According to the data, the number of installs of the free software surged 1,153 percent in the United States during the games. The company, which recorded an average of 220 installs a day before the Olympics, saw the number of installs increase to 2,753 installs during the 17-day event.

Its daily number of users also quadrupled to 8,121 compared to 2,040 average users before the Olympics. The peak day was on July 31 when 10,105 users logged in to catch the  U.S. women take gold in the gymnastics team final while in swimming, South Africa’s Chad le Clos edged out Michael Phelps in the 200 meter butterfly.

Archery is the ‘new’ curling? I don’t think so, NBC

Alan Wurtzel, NBC’s president of research and development, said on the network’s Olympics conference call Thursday that archery is the new curling.

As a former “vice skip”* on my high school’s curling team, I have a message for Mr. Wurtzel: archery is no curling, sir.

Of course I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek here and I’m not that offended. Plus, Wurtzel has some compelling numbers to back up his claim.

ESPN’s John Skipper doesn’t see any benefits in new TV models – yet.

ESPN chief John Skipper is happy to talk to any of the so-called new over-the-top Web video players surfing around the fringes of the cable TV business. But he doesn’t see any major deals happening soon — if ever.

In a conversation with Reuters at this year’s cable show, Skipper was blunt about his skepticism over the idea his network –  the best paid in the business according to SNL Kagan data — could work with a new Web partner, a tie-up that may in some way threaten the cozy $100 billion a year cable programmer-distributor relationship which feeds the entire industry.

“We have a significant stake in maintaining the current model. There’s no advantage to us in new models that undercut what we have today,” said Skipper, speaking from the NCTA Cable Show in Boston.

In Super Bowl streaming deal, Verizon scores again

What a delightful week this is turning out to be for Verizon. First, archrival AT&T decides it will ditch its $39 billion bid for T-Mobile USA (as if they weren’t grinning madly in the halls of Verizon’s Art Deco building down on West Street) and then they get a piece of this NBC deal to stream the Super Bowl.  No doubt, in the greater scheme of things the AT&T news trumps the streaming deal — but every little thing helps in the crazy competitive telecoms world.

Here’s the upshot: For the first time NFL postseason games — including the Super Bowl — will be streamed live online over NFL.com and NBCSports.com and over mobile devices through an app supplied by Verizon.  This is NBC’s deal;  Fox tells us they have “no similar plans” while we’re CBS declined to comment on whether they would do a streaming deal..

The advantage for Verizon is clear: It’s just one more differentiator. (Verizon has really been on a roll lately. Beyond the events mentioned above, they swooped in to buy a ton of cable spectrum for $3.6 billion and made headlines with their plans to take on Netflix with a streaming service).

Howard Stern’s TV judging stint a boost for Sirius XM

Howard Stern is going to be a judge on the NBC show “America’s Got Talent,” this summer and Wall Street is already betting this is going to benefit the shock  jock’s satellite radio home, SiriusXM Radio.

Stern, who will replace the less potty mouthed Piers Morgan, will raise the profile of his radio show and drive new subscribers, at least one analyst said on Thursday.

“We see this as a positive for Sirius, holding potential for free on air-promotion, positive for awareness and sub growth, depending on how the TV show fares,” said Lazard analyst Barton Crockett in a research note.

Who wants a college sports TV network? Who doesn’t?

YouTube Preview ImageSure it was obvious, but I applaud the decision by whoever organized the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum to pipe The Cars “Shake It Up” through the loudspeakers of a bland room in New York’s Marriott Marquis as the conference wrapped up.

College sports — and here I’m the one being obvious — are going through a serious transition. Conferences are realigning, TV deals are being struck, and feelings are getting hurt.

“This has been a painful, stinging two years,” said Chris Plonsky, Women’s Athletic Director at University of Texas, which this year launched its own regional sports network, The Longhorn Network.  The battling “belongs on the field”, she said. “When it comes to business, let’s play nicely in the sandbox.”

When it comes to NFL, TV executives put on brave face

NFL players association members arrive for negotiations with NFL in Washington Mar 11 2011

Shrewd? Prescient? Delusional? Tough to know, but top TV executives this week all seemed relatively confident — even off the record — when asked about the chances that NFL games would be played this fall.

The background, of course, is that NFL team owners and players are at odds over salary caps and other issues, raising the possibility of a lockout and the cancellation of some or all of the 2011 football season. Very bad news, if you’re a fan or a network executive.

NBC Universal creates new sports marketing agency

It’s no secret that sports has been the brightest star of broadcast television lately. It pulls big audiences, and those viewers watch live — a combination that advertisers drool over.  So NBC Universal figured it was high time to make the most of its sports assets — soon to be coupled with those of Comcast – and today announced the creation of “NBC Sports Agency.”

The purpose of the group is to market NBC Sports, whether it’s their coverage of hockey, football, horse racing or the Olympics, and produce campaigns for advertisers or league partners like the NFL or the NHL. John Miller, credited for coming up with the “Must See TV” campaign for NBC’s primetime, will head up the effort. Many industry watchers had predicted that Comcast’s take over of NBC would see a push for more competition for sports rights with Disney’s ESPN powerhouse. Let the battle commence.

Here’s a video of Miller on his new role.

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