Boxee TV: Walmart Wants You to See It; Your Cable Provider Doesn't

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BoxeeIn a major retailing coup, Boxee TV will be sold exclusively through thousands of Walmart (WMT) stores across the country.

Starting on Thursday, 3,000 stores will begin carrying Boxee TV.

The $98 device features a built-in antenna to grab free over-the-air broadcast TV. It also tethers to the Internet to stream YouTube, Netflix (NFLX), and Pandora (P). Naturally it also plays nice with Walmart's own Vudu pay-per-view video service.

There's Nothing Good on TV

There are perfectly good reasons why consumers who are happy with their cable or satellite television providers might consider buying the economically priced set-top box. They can take advantage of Boxee TV's seamless streaming of video apps, and use its access to broadcast channels during cable or satellite dish outages.

However, the clear market here is people who are ready to cut the cord. For the price of a single month's cable bill, a buyer can use Boxee TV to make the most of the monthly Internet connection that they're already paying for.

There are currently a little more than 100 million homes with pay TV accounts. Cable and satellite TV used to be growth industries, but the number of subscribers has been stagnant over the past two years as cost-conscious consumers cancel their costly programming bills.

Cutting the Cord Isn't Always Liberating

Pay TV will be a non-negotiable home expense for many. No ESPN? No AMC? No Comedy Central? Most people have channels beyond the local broadcast ones that they value. Will NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and PBS enough for them?

Maybe. As the Internet continues to crank out time-slurping eye candy, and more content providers reach out directly to consumer via streaming websites, the trend toward Web-savvy set-top boxes will accelerate.

Bloomberg reports that while D-Link's Boxee sold just 120,000 set-top devices last year, Roku cleared 1.4 million of its namesake units, and Apple (AAPL) moved 5.3 million Apple TV devices over the past four quarters.

Don't expect the cable and satellite television providers to go down without a fight. Television is a $150 billion industry, and the service providers aren't going to let upstarts promoting cord cutting destroy them.

However, the quality of set-top box solutions continues to improve with every incarnation. Time is also making more homes WiFi accessible.

Walmart is a great outlet for Boxee TV. Even if many of the retailer's low-income shoppers don't have Internet access at home, it's clearly a target audience that will be attracted to the notion of having one less chunky bill to tackle every month.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article, except for Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Netflix. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Netflix and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bear put ladder position in Netflix.

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