Say Good-bye to Hulu on Boxee

43 Comments

“Another one gone and another one gone, another one bites the dust.” First Hulu wiped its content from rival video portal TV.com (s CBS), now comes word that Hulu is bowing to the demands of its content masters and has asked to be removed from Boxee‘s media center platform.

This is a pretty big blow to New York-based Boxee, which had no formal relationship with Hulu and was just gaining some traction with users. It also highlights how Boxee, like Hulu, is not entirely in control of its own destiny but is dependent on outside content providers. Up to this point, Boxee had provided access to Hulu, Netflix, ABC, CBS, MTV and more for free.

Hulu CEO Jason Kilar explained in a blog post:

Our content providers requested that we turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we are respecting their wishes. While we stubbornly believe in this brave new world of media convergence — bumps and all — we are also steadfast in our belief that the best way to achieve our ambitious, never-ending mission of making media easier for users is to work hand in hand with content owners. Without their content, none of what Hulu does would be possible, including providing you content via Hulu.com and our many distribution partner websites.

Boxee has a post up on the situation as well:

two weeks ago Hulu called and told us their content partners were asking them to remove Hulu from boxee. we tried (many times) to plead the case for keeping Hulu on boxee, but on Friday of this week, in good faith, we will be removing it.

This sucks for people (like myself) who were thinking of shutting off their cable. Boxee provided a free, one-stop user interface to watch video from a variety of sources.

Hulu’s move and earlier actions from Apple (s AAPL) to prevent Boxee from running on an Apple TV highlight how Boxee is not entirely in control of its destiny. The company is not just a side project; it has venture capitalists to answer to after receiving $4 million in VC funding from Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital last fall.

This comes at a time when cable companies like Comcast (s cmcsa) are missing their subscriber goals. Perhaps over-the-top video delivery is getting too good and convenient and the operators are putting the heat on the networks to limit the online outlets through which people can access online video on their big-screen TVs. Will other networks on Boxee, like ABC and CBS, follow suit?

Here’s a video interview we recently did with Boxee CEO Avner Ronen:

43 Comments

Learn Your Lesson

The Boxee guys are very much about getting content released to the public without formal relationships with content owners. Their “it’s easier to ask forgiveness, than to ask permission” attitude is starting to blow up in their faces. They obviously have no clue how this game is played. Content owners need to smell the cash and feel like they’re in control of their content still.

Joe Born

The customized browser approach is the one we’re using at Neuros (for just this reason), but this development still sucks. Boxee has done a nice job with integrating a variety of streams and a lot of the folks using our box are using Boxee on it and love it, and it’s just silly that now they can view Hulu with our browser, but not in Boxee.

Further what if your device didn’t have a mouse or doesn’t run a browser (which is most of the devices out there) then you are locked out of Hulu. The grand irony as many of the posters suggested is that I feel confident that vast bulk of users using Boxee today will switch to RSS+torrents and more than likely be delighted at how it works better than Hulu, now the content providers lost ad revenue and annoyed their viewers.

HmmConvenient

Wouldn’t it be easier just to write a firefox extension that lets the apple remote or any remote control the tv.com, hulu.com, abc.com, nbc.com, fox.com, cwtv.com, experience? Yes?

Sean Fitzroy

@Media Observer
Boxee doesn’t just pluck the video; it plays the ads as well. In fact, it’s nearly the same interface as the web. I can’t speak for others, but I find myself willing to watch more ads in a full-screen, lean back environment. That, plus the fact that ads are tied to Hulu’s account/demographic info should make a Hulu ad unit more more valuable than a traditional broadcast ad on a per-user basis. In addition, most of the content is embedable any way.

@Chris
I cancelled mine 2 years ago and put the money toward a Mac Mini.

@Matt Exactly!

@Nikko The only reason I was using Boxee was to allow my Apple Remote to control Netflix and Hulu on a Mac Mini (as opposed to VNC). There’s even a script out there to launch Boxee from Front Row. For me, Boxee is just a remote control enabler, which is why this paranoia from FOX and NBC is even more frustrating.

Nikko Strom

The solution to the dilemma is to simply connect a PC to your TV and run a full fledged browser.

The UI is awkward to control from sitting 10′ away today, but that is were we need the innovation. This can happen on both the client side and on the content side. The browser can be better customised for 10′ interaction, and websites can be better designed for it too.

Mark Schoneveld

Ugh. This makes me sad. Literally only two weeks after I cancelled my cable. Oh well. I’m sure Boxee will find some interesting alternative partnerships. Or will it?

Chris Albrecht

I’m right there with you, Mark. My wife and I had decided to cut the cable this week. That’s still on the table, but the whole point was to easily be able to watch Hulu, ABC, CBS and Netflix all in one place. I might just cancel my cable out of spite now.

James Gardiner

Yes, this is no surprise. The surprise is Hulu let it happen in the first place. Supporting Boxee and similar TV interfaces to content makes it less likely that cable companies can capture the new wave of technology used by consumers to access content.
Either an open free and dynamic system like boxee. Or a seemingly useful but controlled system like anything coming from a Cable TV companies, AppleTV , Microsoft etc.

These Hi-profile tools do not make it easy to get your torrent downloads onto the screen. Not like boxee would/does.

Any BOX or SYSTEM that supports easy access to torrent downloaded video to the TV is likely to be shunned by content owners.

It is an issue they will eventually have to deal with. They will try and slow it down as long as possible. What else can they do. Their free lunch is going bye bye.
Look at the music industry….

Media Observer

It is incredible to see why people are surprised by Hulu’s actions. Anyone with half a business sense would have seen this coming. There are any number of “boxes” being announced these days including one I saw from Netgear that simply pluck only the video content from web sites and route it to the TV. Makers of these boxes better pause and think what are the business implications of this. Content owners’ bread and butter is coming from video distributors such as cable companies. Why would content providers want to alienate distributors by enabling trivial startup companies to kill the hand that feeds them? Besides by putting content on web sites, content providers wanted to get viewers via non-TV devices and out-of-home moments, such as while at the office. Their intention was never to endanger their own $B revenues by antagonizing their distributor customers.

Josh

The most common question I’m seeing on the Hulu and Boxee blogs, is around how is viewing the show via Boxee any different from a browser?

The only answer I can think of, is that when viewing through Boxee, the user must watch the ad, but will never click on the ad – so the enhanced advertising capabilities of these new-format ads are lost, thus driving down their value.

Bob Fever

Duh. I get it now. I was always wondering why Hulu didn’t just make a skin for their site that worked great on your HD TV (a 10ft GUI skin… like the anti-iphone-formatted site). They can’t due to push-back from the defenders of the status quo (as you note).

<br.
This kind of thing worked great for the music industry so I can see why they’d want to give it another try.

“Internet?… What internet?… That’s for computers silly!”

Dummies.

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