NBC Universal management gets more and more ridiculous every time we come across anything they do. While they've left most of the more ridiculous statements to their chief lawyer, Rick Cotton (who is worried about the poor corn farmers
harmed by movie file sharing), CEO Jeff Zucker has made his fair share of whoppers. While he got a lot of attention last month for his cowardly handling of the whole Leno/Conan mess, his latest move is to flat out lie to Congress. In a hearing in front of Congress as a part of NBC's effort to merge with Comcast, Rep. Rick Boucher asked Zucker about Hulu being forced to block Boxee
(a battle that's gone back and forth
a few times). When the whole thing started, Hulu management was very upfront about how they were pressured by their content partners like NBC to block Boxee, which is just another browser. It was quite clear that Hulu didn't want to do the block, but had no choice due to pressure from the likes of partial owner NBC:
Our content providers requested that we turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we are respecting their wishes....
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.
So how did Zucker respond when asked about it by Congressman Rick Boucher? He blamed Hulu for making the decision, and falsely claimed that Boxee illegally access Hulu content
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA): What about Boxee? Mr. Zucker you probably are in a better position to answer that. Did Hulu block the Boxee users from access to the Hulu programs?
Zucker (NBC): This was a decision made by the Hulu management to, uh, what Boxee was doing was illegally taking the content that was on Hulu without any business deal. And, you know, all, all the, we have several distributors, actually many distributors of the Hulu content that we have legal distribution deals with so we don't preclude distribution deals. What we preclude are those who illegally take that content.
Of course, that's a flat out wrong, as Boxee was not illegally "taking" the content at all. Boxee is a browser, like Firefox. If what Boxee does is illegal so is accessing Hulu with Firefox or IE. But it's even worse than that, because last year, in a different situation, Zucker admitted that he had been a part of the decision makers
to have Hulu block Boxee, telling Kara Swisher that "our vision" was to block Boxee in an effort to keep "Hulu being an online experience" rather than one you could access via a TV.
So why would Zucker flat out lie during a Congressional hearing, and throw Hulu under the bus while doing so? Does he not understand how Boxee works? Did he forget his own dealings with Hulu? Or is he just making stuff up in a Congressional hearing?