By Lauren Goode
Watching live sports on television via the Web may have just gotten easier.
Starting Monday, Web-to-TV software company Boxee will distribute the National Hockey League’s Game Center Live online video content. In addition, the National Basketball Association is set to announce a similar partnership with Roku, maker of a digital video player that streams Netflix and Amazon Video on Demand via the Web, for the distribution of NBA digital video content, beginning with some of this season’s playoff games.
The NHL’s Game Center Live streams approximately a thousand of the league’s 1,200 games per season, or any games that are not national exclusives on Versus or NBC, the league’s partner networks, for $19.95 a month. No additional fees will be applied for the streaming of NHL Game Center Live content through Boxee’s social-media enabled, web-to-TV platform. Since the NHL is currently wrapping up its 2009-2010 season, the new NHL content available through the Boxee platform is minimal, but a spokesman for Boxee says this should lay the groundwork for a continued partnership into next season.
“We knew the season was ending, but we see the NHL as a marquee content partner and wanted to get this deal out there so people would have Boxee in mind for next season,” said Andrew Kippen, vice president of marketing for Boxee.
Representatives from both the NBA and Roku were unavailable to comment on the details of that announcement.
New content partnerships have spurred competition between the various makers of Web-enabled set-top boxes. The introduction of software like Boxee’s has come under fire from cable industry and network executives concerned about the distribution of unlicensed content, as well as the potential threat of consumers watching video on TVs via the Web rather than purchasing bundled cable packages. Another concern is the amount of bandwidth streaming-video applications require.
The announcements come as more gaming consoles, such as Playstation3, Nintendo Wii, and the Xbox 360, are offering consumers options for streaming Web video on television screens. Boxee plans to introduce a hardware set top box called the Boxee Box, manufactured by D-Link, at the end of the second quarter of this year. Currently, Boxee’s open-source software is available as a free beta download, but users must connect a desktop or laptop computer to their television sets using an HDMI cable to watch Web videos on a TV.
For Roku, this marks the second partnership with a major sports league: Last summer, Roku began streaming premium MLB.TV content from Major League Baseball. Boxee also has an application for live MLB.TV video. UPDATE: Although Roku streamed the MLB channel through the end of last season, it has had a delay in starting this baseball season because of technical changes, a Roku spokesman said. The company plans to deliver the channel to customers this week, he said.