Boxee Raises $4 Million For Socially-Networked Media Center

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Boxee, maker of a social media center software platform for HDTVs and laptops, has secured $4 million in first round funding from Spark Capital and Union Square Ventures.

The two firms each accounted for exactly 50% of the investment. Bijan Sabet from Spark and Fred Wilson from Union Square (also see Fred’s blog post on the investment where he calls boxee the ‘Firefox of media center software’) will join the boxee board.

Boxee is bringing us a step closer to a true open, social TV experience. The app gives your computer (Mac OSX or Linux, and soon also Windows) or AppleTV a TV-like interface where you can stream local files like personal videos, music, and photos as well as third-party, mainstream web content from sites like YouTube, Hulu, Comedy Central, CNN.com, ABC.com, Last.fm, Flickr, etc. Basically anything that isn’t DRM-protected (which also means there’s no chance you’ll be able to play your entire iTunes library with boxee).

Update: also check out this related post on Netflix streaming movies and TV episodes instantly to the TV via the Xbox 360, starting tomorrow.

Boxee also enables you to retrieve music and movie reviews, song lyrics, trailers, album artwork etc. from the internet, and comes with a social layer too: you can share information about what you’re watching with friends and make recommendations. You can also add services like Twitter, FriendFeed and Tumblr and post to them from the (beautiful) boxee interface, which turns it into a very powerful communication hub to boot.

I gathered from John’s initial review on Crunchgear that boxee uses XBMC, a media center system that makes everything look as elegant as it does. XBMC was created by creative developers who had modified first-gen Xbox consoles to run the software once it was sent over to the machine through FTP. It’s open-source, so that means developers are free to work with the code in order to create their own plug-ins, skins, and alternate interfaces.

Boxee says it is going to need the funding to be in a better position for negotiations with larger content providers like CBS, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and the BBC. Boxee is also talking to a series of hardware manufacturers who could be interested in licensing its software for set-top boxes.

Boxee is only available for closed alpha testers for the time being, and has already received 100,000 sign-ups according to the company blog post. They’re aiming for a beta release in 2009, which sounds rather vague. The software is completely free, although we assume a premium version is in the works.

The company was founded in 2007, has about 10 employees and has offices in New York City and Israel. The company previously raised an undisclosed amount of seed money from friends and family.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=2010794&server=vimeo.com&show_title=0&show_byline=0&show_portrait=0&color=8cc641&fullscreen=1
quick intro to boxee from boxee on Vimeo.

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