Walmart, the world’s biggest retailer, this week will begin selling a DVR set-top and service from startup Boxee -- aimed at letting consumers drop their pay TV service -- in more than 3,000 stores nationwide.
The $99 Boxee TV device provides access to free over-the-air TV (or unencrypted basic cable channels) and Internet-delivered video services such as Netflix and Walmart’s Vudu rental service.
In addition, the device includes a digital video recorder feature. However, instead of storing the DVR recordings on local storage it uploads them to a Boxee-operated network server. Initially, Boxee plans to launch the “No Limits DVR” service with unlimited storage in eight U.S. markets, available for $15 per month.
On Thursday, Nov. 1, Walmart will start marketing the Boxee TV set-top and service in more than 3,000 stores and on Walmart.com.
“This is just one more way Walmart is helping customers access the services they want at a price they can afford,” Walmart director of corporate communications Sarah Spencer said. “We are pleased to add Boxee TV to our broad assortment of streaming media services like Vudu, Apple TV, TiVo, Roku and others.”
The Boxee TV device, like the startup’s previous non-DVR set-top, is manufactured by D-Link.
“With Boxee TV you’ll be able watch live TV broadcasts in beautiful HD from channels like ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, Univision and many others,” the company said in a blog posting announcing the set-top and service.
Boxee’s No Limits DVR service will provide unlimited storage, with the ability to access DVR recordings on TVs, laptops and tablets, according to Boxee. The service will be available initially in: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
The device includes two tuners, so a user can watch one channel while recording another. Boxee TV also comes preinstalled with apps for Vudu, Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, Pandora and others.
For the network-hosted DVR service, Boxee appears to be relying on the precedent set in a federal appeals court decision upholding the legality of Cablevision Systems’ RS-DVR. Another startup, Aereo, successfully cited the Cablevision decision to defend itself against a bid by major broadcasters seeking to shut down its Internet TV service this summer.
Meanwhile, the FCC earlier this month lifted the ban on encrypting basic-tier digital cable channels. The six largest MSOs have agreed to provide adapters or another encryption solution to work with third-party devices such as Boxee TV.
Last year Boxee sold just 120,000 of its set-tops, according to IHS iSuppli. Roku has sold more than 3 million to date, while Apple last week said it sold 5.3 million Apple TV set-tops in the past 12 months including 1.3 million in the quarter ended Sept. 29.
New York-based Boxee has received $26.5 million in three rounds of funding from investors including General Catalyst Partners, Pitango Venture Capital, Softbank NY, Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures.
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