Boxee Grows Up, Integrates Major League Baseball

boxee Boxee Grows Up, Integrates Major League BaseballLast night, on June 23, Avner Ronen, the founder and chief executive of Boxee—the open-source software platform that reinvents the living room by bringing all kinds of Web content onto your TV screen—announced that Major League Baseball will be the first premium content provider to stream live, subscription-based video through the Boxee software.

According to Mr. Ronen, the MLB.tv deal is a “holy grail” of sports content—with thousands of ball games, available  live and on-demand. MLB.tv’s premium package also offers DVR-like features so users can pause and rewind a live game. Users will dole out a $89.95 yearly fee so they can watch MLB games streaming on their PCs. (Peanuts compared to box seats!)

The Boxee team worked directly with the company to create the MLB.tv application. Mr. Ronen declined to give further details on the deal (like whether Boxee will itself generate revenue from the subscription service). But he emphasized Boxee’s big step in working so closely with a content provider and said that he hopes other media companies will team up with him to create customized services for the software.

“It proves that Boxee is friendly to content providers,” Mr. Ronen said. 

Mr. Ronen called in to The Observer yesterday hours before he stood before more than 900 Boxee fans at a San Francisco club and announced several new updates to the platform with a flashy party.

On his blog, Fred Wilson, who is a Boxee investor as managing partner of Union Square Ventures, wrote about the new developments. “This is just the beginning for Boxee, and bringing video on the Web to your living room television. I’ll use a baseball analogy in honor of MLB’s partnership with Boxee. I feel like this ‘Web video to the living room’ is a nine-inning game and we are in the first or second inning right now. It’s going to be exciting to watch and participate in.”

So far, Boxee has been sequestered to a slightly underground, early-adopter crowd, despite all the media buzz about their content battles with with Hulu.

But Mr. Ronen announced another update that will bring Boxee out of its britches—an early-stage release of a Microsoft Windows application.

Previously, Boxee was only available to the Apple and Linux faithful and, so far, Boxee is only halfway to their one-million-user goal. But opening up the platform to PC users will push them into the mainstream—which is where Mr. Ronen wants to be to stay ahead of his competition and get on a more TV-friendly, TiVo-like device by 2010.

Along with rumors that Steve Jobs might have his eye on a more Web-to-TV-friendly device than the Apple TV, other TV companies are integrating Internet capabilities with their new screens. Vizio, for example, is releasing a Twitter-, Flickr-, Netflix-enabled TV.

So Boxee has a long way to go, yet—but is certainly still in the race.

Being a developer-friendly platform has been helpful for Boxee. They love the platform and want to work for it—for free. Last night, Mr. Ronen and his team announced winners of their Developer Challenge, in which about 40 developers rushed to create applications and integrate new content into the system. The platform now offers about 120 applications, including ones for Drop.io, AnyClip, BBC Live, and We Are Hunted, a music site that tracks the bands generating the most discussion on social networks.

Boxee will also be adding more social features. They are integrating Current.tv content and a “Digg for TV” application, in which users can browse the most popular videos their computer (or TV) screen.

Digg “has been instrumental in discovery on the Web and discovery about what is going on with TV is what is missing in the Internet age—it’s missing the discovery tools,” Mr. Ronen said. Boxee plans on allowing users to “Digg” stuff on their TV screen in a future release.

Finally, David Karp’s Tumblr team also worked with the Boxee team to allow users to stream music and click through photo slideshows from their followers. We’re sure they’ll “like” that.