Digital Dealmakers

Avner Ronen, Founder and CEO of Boxee

The player: Avner Ronen, founder and CEO of Boxee, a Web-to-television software service.

The play: Boxee brings to the television set media and entertainment content from the computer, such as programming streamed from Hulu, Netflix, CNN.com, ComedyCentral.com, CBS.com and other professional media sites.

Ronen

The pitch: Though the service is still in early testing, Boxee has attracted a passionate early-adopter base and carries content from top programmers. Consumers can install Boxee on AppleTV, a Mac Mini, Linux and other services.

In the mix: Mr. Ronen said about 100,000 people are using Boxee in its current “alpha” incarnation. This year, Boxee will open the alpha to anyone, with a goal of reaching 1 million users by year end. About 80% of Boxee users connect the service from the computer to the TV, Mr. Ronen said. Some of the content Boxee carries comes via official deals with those sites, but Mr. Ronen would not specify which programmers on the service have inked agreements.

The money guys: Late last year Boxee closed a $4 million financing round with money from Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital. “The challenge is to break free from the early adopters and get into mainstream users,” Mr. Ronen said. The service is free for users; the business model depends on offering premium features for a fee down the road and getting media companies to agree to share revenue on ads viewed when using Boxee to see one of their shows. Mr. Ronen also is exploring deals with device makers to have the Boxee service embedded on consumer electronics goods. He expects to start generating revenue in 2010.

The pros: Boxee’s service retains the existing ads from Web sites such as Hulu and CBS.com, providing additional views for the ads those sites already have sold.

The cons: Boxee’s long-term revenue prospects are unclear at this point. Also, Boxee is operating without official deals with some programmers and device makers, who could opt to block the service.

Background: Before starting Boxee, Mr. Ronen founded instant messaging service Odigo and spent four years in the Israeli Defense Force in the special computer unit.

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