Boxee Box gains live broadcast TV (soon)

Nov 16, 2011
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Boxee Box users will soon be able to play live broadcast TV channels, with the addition of an inexpensive USB HDTV-tuner dongle. “Boxee Live TV” will be supported by a Boxee Box v1.5 software update.

About a week ago Gigaom.com exploited a “back-door” into Boxee’s website, downloaded and installed the unreleased v1.5 update on its Boxee Box, and created a short video (provided later in this post) demonstrating the new firmware’s updated user interface and configuration settings for supporting live broadcast HDTV playing. (Incidentally, Boxee told our sister site, BoxeeBoxTips that the back-door on its website has now been closed.)

Boxee reveals Boxee Live TV

In a post on Boxee’s blog today, CEO Avner Ronen revealed details about the upcoming “Boxee Live TV” option. As expected, it will allow D-Link Boxee Box users to watch live, broadcast HDTV transmitted via ATSC in the U.S. It will also work with an unencrypted cable connection (using ClearQAM).

The capability requires adding a small live-HDTV USB adapter (pictured below), available from Boxee’s website. Initially it will only work on the D-Link Boxee Box — not on PCs and Macs running Boxee’s free, media-streaming software platform. And it only supports users in the U.S. and Canada, for now.


Boxee’s new $49 live-HDTV USB dongle comes with a small HDTV antenna

The $49 Boxee Live TV product includes a small “portable” HDTV antenna, which shouldn’t be expected to be sufficient in many installations, according to Boxee. “For users without a strong over-the-air signal, we recommend a roof-top antenna or a basic cable package (usually free with a Cable Internet),” says the company.


Boxee’s new $49 live-HDTV USB dongle comes with a small HDTV antenna
(click image to enlarge)

What about DVR capabilities? As Boxee says in the Boxee Live TV FAQ (see below), “No. The focus of Boxee Live TV is well… Live TV….” However, the company adds this teaser: “Having said that, if we get enough users asking for DVR then we could take advantage of that other USB input on the back of the box and let a user connect a drive for recordings.” Hmmm….

Leaked v1.5 firmware video

Click the image below to view Gigaom’s short video showing various live HDTV-related features of the unreleased v1.5 Boxee Box firmware (due for release in January).



Here are several actual v1.5 firmware screenshots provided by Boxee:



(click each thumbnail to enlarge)

Ordering Boxee Live TV

The Boxee Live TV upgrade kit is currently available for preorder on Boxee’s website, here.


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Boxee Live TV FAQ
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Here’s a short set of frequently-asked-questions reproduced from Boxee’s blog post announcing Boxee Live TV:

  • Will Boxee Live TV be available outside the US? — To begin with, Boxee Live TV will be available in US and Canada only. We will update once we have more information for international users.
  • Does Boxee Live TV have a DVR? — No. The focus of Boxee Live TV is well… Live TV… having said that if we get enough users asking for DVR then we could take advantage of that other USB input on the back of the box and let a user connect a drive for recordings. Plus we still have all the shows the web has to offer.
  • Will it work with Boxee’s software platform on PC/Mac? — No. It will only work with the Boxee Box. An updated Mac/PC version of Boxee is in the works, but it will not include support for Boxee Live TV.
  • Will the Boxee Box support other TV tuners? — Not at this time.
  • Will it connect to my cable box? — It will support unencrypted cable channels (clearQAM), so if you get basic cable channels from your cable provider you will be able to connect the coax cable coming out from the wall to the Boxee Live TV USB dongle.
  • How can I know what channels I’ll get? — We will update our website once the product launches, to include an easy way for you to see which channels are available in your area. In the meantime, visit AntennaWeb.org. Click “Choose an Antenna”, input your zip code, hit continue, and you’ll see channel listings in your area.
  • How is this different from Google TV’s support for TV? — Google TV’s set top box requires you to connect it to a cable/satellite set-top box. It does not have a TV tuner built in.


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Note: This story was originally published on Nov. 9, 2011 based on rumors and speculation, and was updated Nov. 16, 2011 when Boxee CEO Avner Ronen announced details of Boxee Live TV in a post on Boxee’s blog.



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