Hollywood Shoots Itself In The Foot... Again; Removes Content From Boxee

from the there's-stupid-and-then-there's-hollywood dept

I've been hearing such wonderful things about Boxee lately that I had actually been meaning to test it out in the next few weeks. It makes it quite easy to view internet content over your television -- helping to bridge that "final gap" between the internet and your television. Boxee has done a nice job integrating a variety of different legal online video services so you can watch them all via your TV. Obviously, one of the big ones was Hulu, which provides video streams of some of the most popular shows on television. There are some dumb limitations associated with Hulu -- including geographic restrictions and music licensing restrictions -- but for those who can use Hulu it actually works quite well (surprising for an offering set up by NBC Universal and News Corp.). The folks at Hulu have actually been pretty upfront in explaining the limitations and their own frustrations in dealing with some of the very content providers who funded them in knocking down some of the more idiotic restrictions.

However, now it appears those content providers have shot themselves in the foot again. Christopher Froehlich alerts us to the news that Hulu's content providers have demanded that Boxee stop streaming Hulu content and Boxee is going to comply. Hulu has a post on their own blog, where they certainly sound quite apologetic about the whole thing:
The maddening part of writing this blog entry is that we realize that there is no immediate win here for users. Please know that we take very seriously our role of representing users such that we are able to provide more and more content in more and more ways over time. We embrace this activity in ways that respect content owners' -- and even the entire industry's -- challenges to create great content that users love. Yes, it's a complex matter. A tough mission, and a never-ending one, but one we are passionately committed to.

For those Boxee users reading this post, we understand and appreciate that you're likely to tell us that we're nuts. Please know that we do share the same interests and won't stop innovating in support of the bigger mission.
Kudos to Hulu and its CEO for at least explaining the issue in a human, rather than corporate-PR-speak way. And, yes, it's the content providers who are nuts, rather than Hulu. After all, wasn't the point of putting the content on Hulu to get more people to watch the content? Why would they possibly try to make it more difficult for people to watch. Oh, wait, we forgot. NBC Universal thinks it's a good thing to make their content hard to watch.

But, to be honest, it's difficult to see how there's even a claim at all by the content providers at all. They put the content on Hulu so that anyone watching the content via the internet on a computer within the geographic restrictions should be fine. Boxee is just an application on a computer. It's functionally identical to watching the content on your computer screen. The only real difference is that the "screen" is a television instead of a monitor. But the mechanism is identical. It's difficult to see how the content providers can claim any right whatsoever to say that you can watch the content that they purposely put online only on a specific type of screen. I can understand Hulu not wanting to upset its content providers. And I can understand Boxee not wanting to upset Hulu... but I can't see how those content providers have any legal right to make this request at all.

Hell, I imagine users of Boxee (depending on their setup) can simply use the computer they already have hooked up to their TV to surf directly over to Hulu. The interface might not be as nice, but they'll still get to see the content. In those cases, it's not even about the screen -- but the browser. It's perfectly legal for me to hook up my laptop to a TV, surf over to Hulu in Firefox and watch a show. All Boxee does is put that into a different browser -- a better browser for TV. Since when does any content provider get to say that it's okay to watch the content they put online in one browser, but not another? In the end, what good at all does it do to ban Hulu on Boxee other than piss people off?
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Filed Under: content providers, hollywood, tv
Companies: boxee, hulu, nbc universal


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  1. identicon
    Joseph, 18 Feb 2009 @ 7:59pm

    Re: Browser vs. Boxee

    If anything, this is going to drive people who would have watched the networks' legitimate online offering to bittorrent (so they can watch it on their TVs, instead of on a computer screen). I'd been thinking of getting an AppleTV and putting Boxee on it to watch hulu in conjunction with my DVR. Not much point in doing that, though, now.

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