Neue Video-Mittelschicht: Boxee hilft beim Finden, Abspielen und Teilen

Boxee ist einer der Pioniere, wenn es darum geht Fernseher ans Internet anzuschließen und sie intelligenter zu machen. Boxee hatte als einer der ersten Anbieter Apps auf der Plattform und dank der Boxee Box gibt es eine komfortable Möglichkeit Internetinhalte und die lokale Mediensammlung nicht mehr nur auf dem PC sondern auch auf dem Fernseher zu konsumieren. Diese Möglichkeiten haben sich auch in Deutschland herumgesprochen: Deutschland ist laut Boxee der Europäische Markt mit den meisten Boxee Nutzern. Mit der letztens gestarteten iPad App widmet sich Boxee zudem vermehrt dem Finden und Entdecken von Inhalten und will die eigene Position damit weiter ausbauen.

Im November hatte ich die Gelegenheit mit Andrew Kippen Boxees VP of Marketing über den Videomarkt und Boxee zu sprechen.

Eine neue Mittelschicht an Videoinhalten entsteht

Als einen der wichtigsten Online Video Trends sieht Andrew die breite Verfügbarkeit von neuen originär für das Internet produzierten Inhalten. Die Demokratisierung durch das Netz nutzen nicht mehr nur User sonder immer öfter auch Prominente oder unabhängige Produzenten um die klassischen Gatekeeper zu umgehen und ihre Inhalte direkt an ihre Fans zu Vertreiben. Louis CK und Glenn Beck sind hier als Vorreiter zu nennen, die so mehr Kontrolle über die Verbreitung und Verwertung ihrer Inhalte erhalten haben.

Andrew nennt dieses Phänomen „the new middle class of content“. Diese neue Mittelschicht entwickelte sich über die letzten Jahre und es sind diese neuen Inhalte, die zur Gründung von Boxee geführt haben. Andrew hat am eigenen Leib festgestellt, dass er immer weniger klassisches Fernsehen konsumiert und dafür mehr und mehr Inhalte, die er aus dem Netz bezieht und so nicht im Fernsehen zu sehen sind. Diese Inhalte bedienen in der Regel ein Nischeninteresse, das so vom Fernsehen nicht bedient wird jedoch im Netz seine Anhänger findet. Um diesen Austausch zu vereinfachen und den Produzenten einen Plattform zu bieten wurde Boxee gegründet. Um den Konsum so einfach wie möglich zu gestalten versucht Boxee alle möglichen Quellen zu Internetinhalten in einem Interface auf dem Fernseher zu vereinen.

Konkurrenz von Roku bis Apple

Neben Boxee arbeitet eine ganze Reihe an Anbietern daran das Internet auf den Fernseher zu bringen. Der Markt wird laut Andrew im Moment von Apple und Roku mit 50% bzw. 25% Marktanteil dominiert. Boxee und die anderen Hersteller teilen sich den Rest zu gleichen Teilen auf. Doch Boxee fühlt sich in seiner Nischenrolle wohl. Das Startup spricht ganz gezielt technikbegeisterte Nutzer an, die mehr Flexibilität wollen als sie bei Apple und Roku bekommen. In einem 60-80 Millionen Haushalte großen US-Markt sind die von Boxee anvisierten 3% Marktanteil immer noch ein attraktives Stück des Kuchens.

Solch namhafte Konkurrenz hat zudem auch Vorteile für Boxee. Indem Google, Apple und Sony die Verbraucher in Werbekampagnen aufklären helfen sie Boxee, da bei den Konsumenten das Bedürfnis nach einem Fernseher mit Internetanschluss geweckt wird und somit der Markt als Ganzes wächst. Alles in allem sieht Andrew Boxees gut positioniert. Auch Connected TVs stellen keine ernsthafte Bedrohung dar, da sie Konsumenten auf Jahre hinweg an eine Plattform binden, was angesichts der enormen technischen Umwälzungen zu Problemen führen kann. Eine zusätzliche Box biete den Konsumenten deutlich mehr Investitionssicherheit beim Fernseherkauf.

Das Boxee Ökosystem

Seit neustem positioniert sich Boxee zudem als ein Service, der Nutzern beim Finden, Abspielen und Teilen von Internetvideos hilft. Die Mission geht somit über die reine Aggregation von Inhalten hinaus und Boxee versucht sie durch ein möglichst intuitives und TV-gerechtes Interface zu erfüllen. Im Gegensatz zu vielen TV-Herstellern platziert Boxee nicht 50 verschiedene Buttons auf den Homescreen sondern versucht Inhalte vor zufiltern und zu strukturieren. Dazu wertet das Startup auch verschiedene sozialen Signale aus Twitter und Facebook aus, um den Nutzern relevante Inhalte anzubieten.

Zudem ist es laut Andrew essentiell um die eigene Position zu festigen, dass Boxee nicht nur ein Aggregator oder Portal ist sondern sich zu einem Ökosystem entwickelt. Dies ist auch einer der Gründe, weshalb Boxee als App auf einem AppleTV oder GoogleTV in seinen Augen wenig Sinn macht. Boxee als Betriebssystem für Set-Top Boxen und Fernseher bietet ein eigenes Ökosystem mit Apps und Entwicklerwerkzeugen gepaart mit Social Services, Schnittstellen und einer breiten Auswahl an Inhalten. All dies soll den Service zu einer ernsthaften Alternative zum klassischen Fernsehanschluss machen.

In der näheren Zukunft sieht Andrew das größte Potential im Secondscreen-Trend und der schlauen Verknüpfung von verschiedenen Geräten mit dem TV-Screen. Boxee ist hier mit der iPad App und der Airplay-Funktionalität der Box in beiden Feldern gut vertreten.

Andrew Kippen im Interview

Im Folgenden das gesamte Interview in dem Andrew im englischen Original. Im Interview spricht er über Boxees Killer App, XMBC, den deutschen Markt und Hardwarepartnerschaften.

Where do you think the video market will be in the next 5 years?
You know I always get this question and I think even two years ago we couldn’t even predict what happened last year which was the entrance of Google TV and an update to Apple TV and an update to Roku.

What I’d like know is what’s your vision on the market and what do you at Boxee do to adopt to this vision?

The next few years will be very interesting for us and for the market in general. You will see more and more content creators go directly to the consumer. Less and well known celebrities make content available just for online and use sponsorships for advertising to fund that. That is because it gives them more control and it allows them to interact directly with viewers.

In a bigger way in the past few months we’ve seen Glenn Beck who is a big political talk show host take his operation off cable and put it on the internet. Supposedly he has now more subscribers than Opra’s cable channel and he’s set to make millions of Dollars this year from this effort where you pay $5 or $10 bucks a month and you get access to the shows. He’s even created kids content to reinforce the value he stands for.

In a completely different sphere of influence Luise CK who is a big comedian here just went on Conan O’Brian and said „I’m sick of doing these comedy central specials or HBO specials or Showtime specials. I’m just gonna do my show and I’m gonna record it and I’m selling it on my website for $5 and when you want to watch it give me $5 through PayPal and that’s it. I don’t have to jump through hoops and deal with all the marketing effort that has to be created for one of these primetime cable shows. I can just tap into my existing fan base and sell to them. And for them $5 is a lot cheaper than going out to the club. So it’s a win win for both of us.“

So your vision is a very fragmented market. Celebrities doing their own stuff and consumers having infinite choice. Where does Boxee fit in into this picture?

We’ve build Boxee because we’ve realized that we had stopped watching TV in a traditional way and that what we’ve been watching was on demand, was more informational and educational and more artistic than what we were getting from mainstream TV. And I think you’re going to see that flourish.

I talked a lot about the rise of the middle class in content. Right now you have the shows that cost millions of dollars to produce and millions of dollars to market and they’ve created this very tiered structure. These guys are making millions, these other guys are making tens of thousands of dollars. I think that will start to shift. You know there are people that make millions of dollars a year off YouTube sitting in front of a camera and talking about what they like to do. I think there will be this middle class of video content that will come out that is very personalized and niche.

So all that to say that it’s really exiting for us because it means more content for users and more ways to consume. So I think we’ll still have this cable bundle. We’ll have pay per view. We’ll have subscription services like Netflix. We’ll have ad supported. We’ll have sponsored content. More flexibility more content and more control for content creators. Boxee is bringing this all together. No matter where it’s from. Being able to aggregate mainstream shows, mainstream movies as well as niche content into the same interface and put it into something that looks great on your TV and that is easy to navigate with a remote in your hand.

If we look at the market we have Roku with their dead cheap box we have Google TV that will make an impact and Steve Jobs is quoted „I’ve finally cracked it.“ So there might be something coming up from Apple. How does this growing competition affect you and how do you react to this?
At this point I think we’re really happy to have that competition. Because Google and Apple and Sony and Intel are going out and are spending millions and millions of dollars educating the market on what consumer should be expecting. Therefore we can just focus on creating a great experience so that when these tech savvy users and consumers go out and do the research they’ll see yeah Roku has a bunch of apps and when I just want Netflix and Amazon and a bunch of Niche content then it might be a good fit but when I want a web browser and I want to be able to play stuff back from my computer and I really want to interact with my friends then this Boxee thing looks like a better fit. And so the same thing goes with Google. They get Apps but if you pick up their remote and you look at it you don’t even know where to start. It has so many buttons on it.

We’re a small team we’re only 40 people. We’re able to react very quickly to our users and what they’re saying and create something that’s really delightful to use.

I saw you last year on Streaming Media West and I recall your pitch of Boxee was like: We’re the box for someone who wants flexibility and who wants to do all the stuff you talked about. But isn’t it kind of a niche positioning from you? Why are you going specifically for a very small percentage of the market?
If you look at it today Apple owns around 50% of the market Roku owns around 25% and the rest is kind of split between a bunch of other competitors and those numbers are more from Best Buy than the total market. But if you look at the number of connected households in the US we’re talking about somewhere between 60-80 million if not more. Even getting 3% of that is a big number. So we won’t be perfect for everybody but we feel like there is a big enough market out there of people who don’t want to live in the iLife who want something nicer to use than a GoogleTV and want something that’s got more flexibility than Roku. I think we’re a really good fit for that.

Now that’s for the product today. We’re continually trying to simplify and improve upon what we’ve got. As each month passes we’re seeing more content going online which makes our platform that much more robust and such much more interesting to consumers. So I think we’re pretty well positioned moving forward and certainly with some of the innovations we have in the pipeline we’ll be an even better fit for people.

Do you see much competition from connected TVs?
The competition is there but at the same time people are buying connected TVs taking them home and then never connecting them. It’s one of the major pain points the connected TV guys struggle with. Because the experience is usually build by somebody who has crafted TV interfaces his entire career. That’s why you look at a Samsung SmartTV and you look at a Boxee Homescreen and they are drastically different. Samsung is trying to cram 50 different things you can click onto in one screen and we have 8.

The competition is there but I think overall there is a hesitance in the market for consumers right now who are thinking well if I spend the extra of 150-200 dollars on this TV who is to say that in a year there is not some new service that comes out that won’t work with it and to replace the TV I’ve to spend 1500-2000 dollars vs. 200 or 100 bucks to replace a set top box.

That’s one of the things that we continue to echo to people: „Look you replace your TVs every 7 years. Think about 7 years in the past and what was happening on the Internet then. What’s going on today blows it away.“ So now you might have to go out in 2 years and spend all that much money to replace it rather than just replacing your set-top box.

Roku introduced a special controller so you can play Angry Birds on the TV. They bet huge on that Game as the next killer app for the TV. What’s the killer app for Boxee?
It’s still content. It’s stuff that’s coming from the web like new TV shows and movies. That’s the number one driver of adoption. We play silly stupid games like Sudoku and Angry Birds and things like that while we’re waiting for things while we’re on the train while we’re commuting. It’s not something that you do when you sit down in your living room. Once you start getting to something that more resembles the content on a XBox or Wii then it becomes a more compelling user experience. I think for us we still believe that video is the killer app.

You recently diversified and launched an iPad App and it’s not just a remote but is has a lot of additional features. On the PC it’s not running Boxee but a small little program that streams your content to the iPad. What was the decision to separate these things?
The PC client for Boxee is based on XBMC Project and there is a lot of legacy code and things that have been worked on since 2003 when this project started. We wanted to create something that was very light and easy to use and something that we can reuse in a lot of different places so we decided that we move away from embedding something into the PC client software and just focus on building a pretty slick simple media manager that is really easy to use.

We wanted to create an experience that would certainly benefits our existing Boxee users but that also could stand alone for somebody who had never used Boxee before and hopefully have that be a gateway to introducing them into the software into purchasing the Boxee box and bring the iPad experience and more to their TV.

What’s happening when most of our media resides in the cloud and everything is streamed to our PCs and TVs. Is the future of Boxee a portal where you have a start screen to launch different services?
I don’t think we’re that simple. We really want to push the boundary on what’s possible on the TV screen. Becoming a portal isn’t that interesting because all you are is just an aggregator and I think we see ourselves as a way to help people find, watch and share what they want to watch. And the first part of that is much more than just putting it all in one place it’s helping people discover the content they want to watch and that’s relevant to them and bringing in stuff from their friends bringing in stuff from celebrities or experts they follow on Twitter and that’s kind of where we are right now.

I think we really have started to position ourself as an alternative to cable rather than just that set top box that you buy and that’s a media streamer.

So it’s more like an ecosystem you’re aiming for and not so much at the box, hardware or software?
Right.

How do you approach Hardware partners? What’s the deal?
We deal with hardware guys all over the world and talk to them about embedding us as an OS. We’ve looked at enabling Boxee as an app on another platform. So for instance running Boxee as an app on Google TV or running Boxee as an app on a Samsung SmartTV but I think those platforms end up being not all that interesting for us when we look at it that way. We much rather want to be that one interface that the customer uses rather than just being an app inside of this big huge ecosystem.

If we look onto the German market. The second largest TV market in the world. What do you plan there?
When we look at Europe we see 3 or 4 key markets. The top markets by users for us are Germany, UK and Sweden. And amongst all of those Germany is the biggest market. That’s something what we’re really interested in following and working with. So we announced a partnership with Maxdome and we’re working on an integration there. We’ve been in talks with ProSieben and we have somebody based in London who has been doing a lot of the negotiations for us. For us a lot of times it is a chicken and egg problem. How much content is really online and available to users in a specific country vs. how much can we get on the platform. Maybe we need a little bit more development before Germans can go fully Internet based but it’s an inroad we’re following and it’s certainly an important market for us that we want to see grow.

What is next for Boxee? What should we be exited about?
For us I think the second screen provides a lot of interesting innovation opportunities. What we haven’t yet seen is how the TV screen plays with a lot of smartphones or tablets. We’re just getting into that and I think there will be a lot of innovation in that space. Particularly looking at the stats of how many people are using their smartphone or tablet while they’re watching TV.

Thank you very much!