Samsung acquires Boxee

The Korean giant reportedly spent $30 million on the Israeli-American streaming media startup.
Written by Andrew Nusca, Contributor

It began as a rumor first reported by Israeli publication The Marker, but independent reports are beginning to trickle in that suggest it's true: Korean electronics giant Samsung has acquired Boxee, the streaming media startup, for approximately $30 million.

(Update: And now it's official.)

At first, the company did not deny the validity of the reports, and simply refused to comment.

Boxee manufactures small home theater computers that were early successes in bringing Internet-connected multimedia to living room televisions. The company's $99 flagship product, "Boxee Cloud DVR," offers recording and streaming of media content from any mobile device.

The startup is backed by General Catalyst Partners, Union Square Ventures, Softbank, Pitango, Spark Capital and Globis Capital Partners to the tune of more than $26 million.

Though it was met with early success, the consumer-focused company has faltered in recent months. It reportedly sought to raise additional funding, and subsequently a suitor, once that didn't work out.

Its challenge? The companies Boxee primarily competes against are all larger in size and scope: Apple (TV), Google (TV), TiVo, Dish Network and virtually every television manufacturer can out-muscle Boxee when it comes to market presence. (Only Roku, which is also independent, is comparable, though Dish Network has invested in it.) As more companies get into the "smart TV" game and integrate more functionality into a single device, stopgap products like Boxee's stand to be squeezed out.

But the real question here is why Samsung believes it needs Boxee, either for talent or technology. That very large company has made great efforts in its Smart TV brand, but industry efforts in this space have been met with some disdain by consumers. (My CNET colleague David Katzmeier called the features "whizbang doodads, newfangled thingamabobs, miscellaneous frippery." Enough said.)

Perhaps Samsung sees value in Boxee chief executive Avner Ronen's focus and vision, traits often in short supply in the halls of multinational conglomerates. Or perhaps the company simply wants to preserve its lead in the global market.

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