Google Blocking Set Top Boxes From Showing YouTube Unless They Pay Up?

from the evil-is-as-evil-does dept

I’m wondering if there’s more to this, because it seems rather “un-Google-like.” The makers of a set top box that can display internet content are complaining that Google is blocking them from displaying YouTube content, unless they agree to “partner” and commit to buying lots of ads (the amount is in dispute). If this sounds quite a bit like the ongoing battle between Hulu and Boxee, you might be right. However, in that case, at least you could sort of understand the (misguided) thinking behind it, since Hulu is owned by the colossally short-sighted content companies. But what’s Google’s excuse? If all these set top boxes are really doing is accessing free internet content and formatting it better for a TV, why stop it? They’re really no different than accessing content via a computer and a browser — it’s just that the “computer” is a set top box and the “browser” is formatted for a television. That shouldn’t require a special agreement, or any sort of ad buy commitment. Update: Received a confused and angry email from YouTube PR linking us to the very Wired article we linked to and demanding we add their PR statement (which is already in the Wired article). However, it does not actually answer the questions raised or change the point of this post. The fact that YouTube restricts set tops from accessing the content still does not make sense.

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Companies: google, youtube

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Comments on “Google Blocking Set Top Boxes From Showing YouTube Unless They Pay Up?”

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Anonymous Coward says:

More tech than is necessary?

Why does a set-top box have to be aware that it’s a set-top box? Suppose it thinks it’s a computer running a browser that happens to be accessing the site at the behest of its user? I mean, why make it a stand-alone feature by itself and be subject to terms of use when you could just as easily run a browser with a handy plugin that does the formatting on the client side, invisibly to the data source? All I’m saying is that my computer is nobody’s “partner.”

Oh, probably because the manufacturer wants to lock consumers into a service agreement based on licensed use of the platform, I’d guess. Not satisfied just selling the thing to people and letting them decide what it gets to do. This licensing agreement shit is all just so arbitrary.

Almost Anonymous (profile) says:

Re: More tech than is necessary?

Why does a set-top box have to be aware that it’s a set-top box? Suppose it thinks it’s a computer running a browser that happens to be accessing the site at the behest of its user?

Exactly my thoughts: Why does it identify itself as anything other than a vanilla computer running IE or Mozilla? If licensing cr@p really is the answer, I agree with the first replier… Head asplode.

Anonymous Coward says:

Is Firefox next?

Is Firefox next because you can add adblocking to it? Notice that Google’s own browser (Chrome)has no such capabilities and they only recently announced that they will be adding support for add-ons. However, in their EULA they now claim the right to remotely examine and delete addons that violate their “policies”. In other words, Google is going to kill adblockers (among other things probably).

Do no evil? What a joke.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Is Firefox next?

You can install AdBlock+ on Chrome. I have it running on Chromium and it works great.

Until Google removes it. From the Chrome terms of use:

“20.3 From time to time, Google may discover an extension that violates Google developer terms or other legal agreements, laws, regulations or policies. Google Chrome will periodically download a list of such extensions from Google’s servers. You agree that Google may remotely disable or remove any such extension from user systems in its sole discretion.”

Silverwolf (user link) says:

Evil is as Evil does

This story is frankly very disturbing to me because I have always been a firm believer in the whole “Google is not evil” thing. Myself and most of my family and friends all use Google services, due in large part to the fact that I recommend them every chance I get. But this feels like a Microsoft move to me and it’s causing me to seriously re-think my opinion of Google.

Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

Maybe all is not as it appears

Google over the last couple years has had to agree to all kinds of arrangements with a lot of different content creators. The reason they may be restricting content is because they are going to have to pay through the nose to those MPAA-RIAA goons if they allow set top boxes to display the content on YouTube unfettered.

I really do think there is a reason for this that is not clearly or openly SHOWN.

I am currently and never have been a defender of any company that seeks to control us the consumer from getting access to content we are rightfully entitled to.

Google has been a fairly good company at defending the rights of us the people. So I need more information before jumping down their throat about access.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Maybe all is not as it appears

“Google has been a fairly good company at defending the rights of us the people.”

Not really, though. True, they rarely initiate policies that are as onerous as ones that many other major corporations do routinely. However, they have a long-established trait of folding like a wet tissue when they get any sort of pressure to engage in anti-people’s-rights actions.

Their behavior in China set the tone that has continued unabated ever since.

Nick Coghlan (profile) says:

How is an Internet capable set-top box different from a HTPC?

Yeah, I suspect Google are trying to draw an impossible* distinction here. Where does a set-top box end and a home theatre PC begin? What’s next, no Youtube on an Ubuntu netbook because Canonical didn’t pay up?

*(Impossible in terms of normal human English. You can draw any distinction you want in law by defining terms correctly. But the law isn’t how Google will be judged by their customers in this case)

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Maybe google is about to get schooled ....

… in why you dont make deals with big media. You tend to get screwed. It doesnt matter if you are an artist, a start up, or a large corporation. Their bad mojo, karma, luck tend to affect everyone down wind of them.

The solution for this one is, google should embed the ads in the big media videos when set top boxes are detected the same way hulu does. With an overlay during the first 2-5 seconds stating …. “due to lisc agreements with (insert big nasty media company name here) this 1 hour video contains 2, 30 second ads”

Anonymous Coward says:

I think what Google is doing is the process to start monetizing their assets charging other companies and some more years it will start charging its users LoL

Microsoft started the same way. There was a time that Microsoft was seen as a good company by many it had entire sections dedicated to solving user problems that is all gone now but history repeats itself.

I like Google for now and use it a lot when they start putting walls is the time to move on to newer services that are still eager to compete and don’t feel so confortable and still respect(fear) their costumers.

TheStuipdOne says:

I'm a Google User

I use an iGoogle home page, gmail, youtube, chrome, blogger, google wave, google talk, i’ve used adsense on my blog, i own an android phone, and I despise what they are doing here. As other commenters are saying this might just be an indication of things to come meaning it is time to ditch the google bandwagon. I’ll wait a while to see if they give a good explanation or not.

Phillip (profile) says:

Re: I'm a Google User

mostly the same don’t like chrome and don’t care about blogger. But I use most of their other stuff right now, but this may have me looking for new solutions. Google just seems to be making dumb shortsighted moves lately.
Book Deal
Newspaper deals
Settlements with everyone when they sue rather than win as they should
and now this Youtube crap.

very disappointing.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would bet that the set top boxes are not permitting the ad layering or other technologies that youtube is doing to pay it’s bills. Perhaps they are even stripping the entire youtube environment, and only showing the videos themselves.

Anyone have any experiences? Rather than jump all over youtube, let’s see what is actually happening.

Kazi says:

Re: Re: "Demanding" you add their PR statement?

As far as I see it Google is blocking the service to set top boxes because those are using the YouTube API to access the service, unlike a web browser and a computer.

Google makes the API available for free to individual users but once you begin commercial use of their API they require you to license it.

I bet if it was just using a web broswer type solution through the set-top box it wouldn’t be an issue. The problem is that they want to use the API commerically and not pay google for it. Google has every right to charge for access to their API’s when they are commercial. When the services aren’t commercial but by an individual user they have every incentive to provide it for free to make as many people developing for their platform. It’s an ingenious market strategy that gives Google a large community to develop and test their API by users and then selling access to it to commercial entities.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: "Demanding" you add their PR statement?

“Google has every right to charge for access to their API’s when they are commercial.”

I don’t think anyone is disputing that. The questions are whether or not this is a good idea and what it indicates about the nature of the company.

You have a good point underneath that, though — it does seem as though people are confusing their web presence with their API services.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "Demanding" you add their PR statement?

Yes, and this is exactly my point from an earlier comment I made. If the makers of the set-top box just made and sold the hardware and set up the input-output controls for the remote, but didn’t mess with a licensed “platform” with a continuous SOA as a requirement for usage, it wouldn’t be a problem. They could just drop in a thin, open source OS with a web browser (and let the consumer decide what else to add), kill the service plan/proprietary licensing structure, become a custom hardware only you-buy-it-you-own-it vendor, and not have to worry about agreements with third parties at all. Everything beyond the point-of-sale would be at the will of the user.

To me, the problem here arises from the desire on the part of the manufacturer, the media companies, and the third party software creators to impose a service-plan type model where simply selling the hardware and calling it done would work just fine. If they’d just sell the damn things and forget about the long-term contracts, license agreements and billing cycles, they wouldn’t have these problems. There’d be a higher up-front cost to consumers (and woe betide the early adopters), but that’s life.

Kazi says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Demanding" you add their PR statement?

Exactly. I bet the company, if we’d dig further in, was requiring a subscription to make their device active (Thus, the YouTube was active only through a subscription). Without a subscription it probably was as good as a door stop.

Therefore, since they are asking customers to pay a subscription to access Youtube Google figures “Hey, lets charge them to access YouTube because they are charging the users to access YouTube through our API”.

Maybe Google, in it’s own and unique way, was actually, gasp, protecting its customers from paying for something that IS free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Demanding" you add their PR statement?

No, making stuff up is claiming something is true when in fact you don’t know whether or not it’s true and you just imagined it and “made it up.” Speculating and stating it as such is different than making stuff up because at least in the former you are acknowledging that it’s speculation verses the later you are not.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Demanding" you add their PR statement?

Now lying is telling something you know is false.

So lets review.

Making stuff up = you don’t know if it’s true or not, you don’t know that it’s true, but you assert it is.

suggesting (or speculating) = you don’t know if it’s true but you are acknowledging you don’t know, you are merely making a suggestion. Nothing wrong with this, it’s perfectly fine.

lying = saying something you know is false.

Kazi says:

Re: Re: Re:4 "Demanding" you add their PR statement?

Does that mean if you give doubt about an occurance, such as “bet on it”, that you are suggesting it (say based on personal knowledge – therefore making it up but giving doubt to it as you are uncertain about the validity) instead of making it up? That is, I’m not asserting it at all but making it a possibility.

Making stuff up (when you know it’s wrong) appears to be lying since you are asserting something. Then, making stuff up (when you know it’s right) appears to be not lying but just being lucky with truth. Providing doubt (any doubt, to the positive or negative) is suggesting, speculating, betting, hypothesizing, etc. Right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "Demanding" you add their PR statement?

Why? This isn’t the news media. It’s some dude running a blog. It’s both explicitly stated and easily gathered from context. Any company involved is welcome to make its case in the comments, just like anyone. Why would they be entitled to representation within the body of the post itself?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "Demanding" you add their PR statement?

News media ONLY represents the big corporations where some dude making a blog better represents the people.

BTW, some dude making a blog is often far more educated in far more relevant topics than news media, who tend to only have an education in journalism perhaps. I would much rather listen to some dude making a blog who has a graduate or post graduate degree in the relevant topics they are discussing (ie: bet it economics, computer science, biology, math, etc…) than some lame journalist any day.

Wolfy says:

I did a quick scan, and a few posters got close to the crux of the biscuit, and that is HDCP. This is a scam by the media/content folks to require additional, expensive encryption and decryption barriers be built into ALL HD capable equipment just in case someone might play (copy) a movie on their computer and hook it up to a HD video monitor and decide to take a tap off the system and record it to another device with portable media. The HDCP equipment prevents stuff like (bluray) from working with non-HDCP equiped devices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The last thing we need is for them to break our technology. They’ve already done enough to break our technology and restrict public domain and creative commons work outside the Internet. We need to be proactive and overturn the corporate monopolies that exist on the airwaves and cableco/telco infrastructure (or at least to allow others to build new infrastructure in the case of infrastructure). Furthermore, anything over public airwaves should be public domain.

Rstr5105 (profile) says:

Hey mike...

Hey Mike,

Would you care to post a copy of your email from the PR rep? Just curious to see what they had to say.

Unless Google can pull some really good reason for this out of their collective @$$, this move has just totally dissuaded me from trading in my Samsung phone for the Droid this December when my contract allows it.

I really hope that this isn’t, as many are saying, a sign of things to come. Google has always been good to me and for me, but, I guess times change huh?

Maybe we should all use Bing for a day?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Hey mike...

Would you care to post a copy of your email from the PR rep? Just curious to see what they had to say.

I’m not going to post the full email, since we don’t have permission, to do so, but the subject line said that the article was “misleading” and needed to be “updated with YouTube POV.” In the email, it asked why I had not contacted YT, and why there was no “YouTube/Google POV” and then said that it was “bad due diligence and poor journalism” before saying I needed to update the article with the bland PR statement that’s already in the Wired article. It then linked to the Wired article suggesting I look at that (even though it was the basis of this very post).

Pete Austin says:

Saints, not Sinners

@Kazi: exactly.

Google use a dual-licence model. They provide “browser-based” access to their products for free, but charge for commercial API access. This is no different from e.g. Google Maps.

Browser-based access is automatically funded by advertising, but API access is unfunded by default and so commercial users must pay, either in money or by showing ads.

Anonymous Coward says:

Could this have anything to do with the PlayOn media server that just added hulu, netflix, youtube, etc support to DLNA-compliant devices? It costs $40 – perhaps they are locking down STBs to push for this payment model…

I’ve been waiting for my PCH C-200 NMT to arrive – Google contacted PCH (Syabas) about a week ago and told them to pull Youtube support from the device. This is all right about the time where the above services were enabled on the PS3 using PlayOn – coincidence?

Link to PCH Announcement:

hegemon13 says:

Re: Re:

“This is all right about the time where the above services were enabled on the PS3 using PlayOn – coincidence?”

Um, no it wasn’t. PlayOn has been around for over a year, supporting all those services. Before that, it was in public beta for several months. Sorry you just noticed, but perhaps you should note that things can exist in the universe without your knowledge. So, it is neither conspiracy nor coincidence. It is a non-event.

someotherAC says:

Re: Re:


RE: Syabas/Youtube


The reason there’s no deal, according to Syabas COO Alex Limberis, is that YouTube demanded a multimillion-dollar advertising commitment in return for permission to display its videos on televisions through the Popcorn Hour A-110 and C-200 set-top boxes.

“YouTube mentioned that they are only going to work with ’strategic partners,’ ” Limberis told “When asked what it would take to become a strategic partner, they said we would need to spend ‘multiple seven figures’ with them on advertising.”

So it’s money, pure and simple.

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