CES '16: FreeCast Launches SelectTV Set-Top Box
FreeCast, the company behind the Rabbit TVvideo aggregation service, hopes to compete with Roku and Apple TV with its new set-top box, dubbed SelectTV. It introduced the new device this week at CES in Las Vegas.
Like the Rabbit TV service, SelectTV aggregates a wealth of freely available online video content, but also adds the ability to access over-the-air content as well as popular OTT services like Netflix and Hulu. The company claims it provides access to 350,000 TV shows, 200,000 movies, and more than 50,000 internet radio stations. It aggregates all that content and makes it searchable and customizable, clearly identifying what content is free and what content is pay-per-view or subscription. The SelectTV box will sell for $179 when it ships in April, and the aggregation service—essentially Rabbit TV, which will soon be rebranded Two-Buck TV—will cost $2.99 per month.
So why pay for another box and a monthly service? "We do all the searching for you, and bring all the content together in one place," says FreeCast CEO William Mobley, comparing what separates the service from Roku or Apple TV to the difference between a big-box retailer and a specialty store.
The SelectTV service can also unify users' billing for pay-per-view movies and subscription services. Users give FreeCast their credit card information, and it then generates a "virtual Visa" that makes the payments. That way, users can see all of their video costs on one bill each month, says Mobley.
What really separates it from other STBs, though, is that it's a full-fledged computer, running Windows on a quad core Intel processor. As such, it runs the web versions of services like Netflix and Hulu, not those apps. It also offers DVR features, full web browsing, email, and even the ability to run Microsoft Office. The SelectTV device can be operated via the handheld remote that ships with the box or a wireless keyboard. It can also integrate with home security and automation solutions like Nest and Simply Safe.
Rabbit TV hasn't gotten much notice in the streaming world, due in part to its "As Seen on TV" labeling, but Mobley claims that it has 4 million customers. Mobley says that in addition to the consumer market, FreeCast will also pursue the lodging market with the SelectTV, saying it offers more options and flexibility than hotel video services like Lodgenet.