We've wondered in the past if it's really possible for Hulu to survive
in the longterm, given its awkward position between consumers who want to watch content, and content providers who want to put massive limits on how people can access content. This got plenty of attention in the ridiculous (and totally unnecessary) fight to block Boxee
. In that case, even Hulu admits that it would like to allow Boxee (which is nothing more than a different type of browser), but that its content providers won't allow it (despite the fact that anyone who uses Boxee can simply open up another browser and watch the same content).
One of the biggest complaints with Hulu is that its content is limited only to people in the US, so those trying to access it from elsewhere get a message saying "too bad." Of course, there have been rather simple workarounds, using proxy servers to access the content. A couple months ago, when I was in the UK, I wanted to watch something on Hulu, but was blocked because of the location. Luckily, I just logged into my VPN, and Hulu let me through. Yet, today that might not work. Apparently Hulu has started blocking various anonymous proxies
, saying that to watch Hulu, you need to log out of the proxy/VPN and "prove" that you're really in the states. Beyond being ridiculous, this can be a security risk. Many of us use VPNs for security reasons.
Again, my guess is that this is due to pressure coming from Hulu content providers, rather than Hulu itself. It makes little to no sense for the company to waste time and resources blocking people from viewing their content. However, it's that ongoing split, whereby Hulu has to waste time and resources making its service worse that may eventually spell doom for the company. Those who are blocked are likely to just go elsewhere -- such as BitTorrent -- to find the content they want, and thus the content providers won't get any
ad revenue, whereas on Hulu they do share in the ad revenue. It's difficult to see how it makes any sense. Sure, some might point out that there are "rights" questions involved -- since the content providers may not have licenses to display the content outside the US, but given the basic geographic restrictions the site has set up, you'd think that Hulu had passed a sufficient bar that no court would accuse the company or the content provider of willfully violating any license agreements.
There's a pretty simple maxim that Hulu may be unable to follow: if you have to spend time and money making your product worse
, you're going to have a hard time surviving. I recognize that Hulu has been something of a success to date, but it's hard to keep that up when you keep screwing over your users.