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The Bauminator

Is Boxee Cashing In Or Cashing Out?

6/14/2013 12:40 PM

Boxee reportedly is trying to land a big funding round or is close to snagging a buyer, but the company is only admitting to one of those potential scenarios as the week draws to a close.

Boxee is “doing another round of financing,” a company official said Thursday via email, soon after AllThingsD first reported that the company was looking to raise $30 million, essentially doubling what it has already raised. The report also notes that the company hired Allen & Co. earlier this year to also look for potential suitors, and that Boxee has been making the rounds with both cable and satellite TV players.

On Friday, VentureBeat reported that Boxee will announce that it’s found a buyer and that a deal, valued at less than what it had hoped for, will be announced “sometime next week.”  Boxee isn't commenting on the M&A rumors.

But would someone from the pay TV industry consider buying Boxee? It sounds crazy, but less so than it might have a couple of years ago. Back then, Boxee did a good job casting itself as an enemy of the traditional pay TV model, a disruptor looking to give consumers an alternative and cut pricey cable TV bills. These days, in comparison, Boxee and the cable industry are downright chummy.  

And one of its closest allies, if that's even a fair characterization, is Comcast. It took some regulatory wrangling, but Comcast is starting to make available a new type of Ethernet-connected Digital Transport Adapter (DTA) that can feed an encrypted form of the MSO’s digital video tier to Boxee’s new Cloud DVR product. That offer is still limited to markets where Comcast has begun to encrypt its most basic “B-1” tier.

The Boxee-Comcast connection is the result of an agreement they put together themselves. Per the FCC’s new basic TV encryption rules, however, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems, Bright House Networks (and Comcast) have also agreed to let IP-based retail devices (like Boxee’s) receive  basic TV tiers without a CableCARD. 

Still, why would any of those folks want to buy Boxee? I suppose it could give one of them access to a product that can blend the basic tier with over-the-top content and a cloud-based DVR. That scenario seems like a longest of long shots, but that sort of product could come in handy as MSOs seek out ways to attract and retain pay TV subs with less expensive, slimmed down “lite” linear TV packages that can be paired with the riches of the OTT video realm and tied together by a slick interface.

In fact, it’s that sort of model that is starting to work for Roku as it tries to be more than just a TV Everywhere conduit to the MSOs. The best, recent example of this is happening at Canby Telcom, which is using Roku boxes to deliver EZVideo, a tier comprised of eight local broadcast channels that sells $14.95 per month. Canby launched it earlier this month, and this page has all the details.

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