Blog Post

Whoops! Hulu Removed (Again) from Boxee

UPDATE: The back and forth continues. According to an updated blog post at Boxee last night, Hulu is back up and running.

This is a case where no definitely means no. Hulu‘s content is once again gone from Boxee. To recap:

In October, Boxee integrated Hulu content into its media platform, creating an elegant way for users to experience Hulu video on televisions.

Last month, under pressure from its content partners, Hulu asked to have its content removed from Boxee’s media platform. Boxee agreed and all access to Hulu was removed.

This morning, Boxee released a workaround that used public RSS feeds to enable Hulu content on the service.

This afternoon, Hulu blocked Boxee’s latest move. Boxee sent us the following statement:

“we just found out that Hulu blocked the boxee browser from accessing the Hulu site. this is a disappointing development since their RSS feeds are publicly available, and our browser, while optimized for a great 10 ft video experience, is no different in how it accesses this content than Internet Explorer, Firefox, Flock, Opera or any of the other browsers out there.”

We’ve asked Hulu why it has banned Boxee and will update when we hear back. But there is precedent for Hulu blocking people from its content. It creates blacklists to prevent its embeds from appearing on undesirable sites (i.e. porn), and it also sent a cease-and-desist letter to rampant Hulu embedder OPENHulu. However, it has allowed other sites such as Veoh to use Hulu content with no official relationship.

Developments like this throw up serious red flags to us over Boxee’s viability going forward. Sure, it may be a great service, but will it be spending its time in a constant back and forth with its content sources? It’s not just Hulu. Boxee and Apple go through similar cycles of Boxee being wiped out from the Apple TV, requiring the user to reinstall. Will this tug of war cause people to fall out of love with Boxee as content appears then disappears?

37 Responses to “Whoops! Hulu Removed (Again) from Boxee”

  1. ()It seems that hulu wants to stay off the 10′ and still generate advertising income from PC’s. I say if they want it to be a “free” experience they can’t decide what size screen you put it on, you can still watch hulu on a 50″ screen with a computer, you just have to use a mouse in place of a remote, so its a very fine line between my 32″ “tv” and my 24″ “monitor” due to pressure from content providers not wanting to lose out on the MASSIVELY income generating cable distribution that has had hike after hike in billing that has nothing to due with increased operating costs. Just like the slow death of telecoms from vonage and cell phone service this is just the roar of an dinosaur that fears the end. Cable company’s should worry about content not distribution and get over it.

  2. Media Watcher

    Right. Hulu is available via Boxee but not Plex at this point.

    Although Plex is promising an update to change that.

    Stay tuned for more Hulu Wars…. (!)

  3. The only way forward is to access web content using a regular web browser. That way sites can’t discriminate against your client. It works OK today (just hook up a PC to your TV), but the UI is a little awkward.

    Innovations in the UI for general web browsing 10′ away is what will have real impact! As a bonus, we’ll have all that niche content available from the TV couch too.

  4. Media Watcher

    Plex sounds interesting. But there’s no Windows version. So it’s a Mac play only at the moment.

    For both platforms, you need to be looking at XBMC itself and Boxee.

  5. Plex has a superior model for how their media center accesses online content, and its been working great with Hulu since launch. Our team over at Brightcove was able to get a working plugin for online video using before they even released the documentation on writing them.

    Since they share the same code base, the only real difference (other than working access to Hulu) is the user interface, a subjective decision but one as a designer that I’d give the nod to Plex for. Boxee has the gift of magical press coverage, but not a lot else.

  6. How can Hulu survive when comcast, netflix, and apple will spell it’s end. There is not enough money in non-targeted advertsing. Also when you don’t control the technology and the content your service depends on how will you survive. Hollywood can do away with Hulu at the snap of finger. Hulu is just another flash lemming heading to the sea.

    Hulu is dead long live Hulu!!!

  7. Media Watcher

    According to Boxee, Hulu content is back. Their blog says:

    “UPDATE: hulu is back working. over the weekend we will make an update to the user interface that will show a status message indicating whether Hulu is currently working or not.”

    The real question here is whether the content providers want media watchers to play along and watch the shows and movies with ads via something like Boxee (so the content providers can make some money from the folks who watch content via the Internet) – or whether they want the media watchers to obtain it without ads (much as they did in the pre-Boxee and pre-Hulu era).

    You can watch the content now (without ads) with the Open Source program XBMC and a third-party plug-in that strips out the Hulu ads or by downloading the shows & movies from the torrents.

    Seems to me that Boxee is trying to play along with the content providers “Hulu” model of content plus ads.

    If I were in the shoes of the content providers, I’d try to make that work – before we see media watchers ignore both Hulu and Boxee and resume un-monetized access. That would be the worst of all worlds from a content provider prospective. Or so you’d think…

  8. Yeah, Hulu’s response today can’t be a surprise to anyone. They’d asked nicely and allowed time for Boxee to notify customers and then they tried to backdoor this. Given some of the other scraping solutions Hulu is trying to block out, I suspect certain features are going to be removed and/or require a login as Media Observer suggests.

  9. Media Observer

    Boxee is not the only one blindly taking the approach of “lets try to slip one past these guys”. There are any number of set-top-boxes which you have featured in NewTeeVee whose makers think that simply because content owners have put videos publicly on their web site for PC consumption, they can go and take it and route it to the TV. Most of these companies seem to have no forward looking business thinking and seem to love the notoriety which they believe will bring them more followers/buyers. Because of the seriousness of the potential for the threat to the business model of their existing customers/distributors, content owners will follow the interests of their distributors, regardless of however strong their temptation may be to find alternatives to those existing distribution channels. Most of today’s openly available video content on PC web sites will eventually go behind login mechanisms that require either a separate fee or existing subscription to a current video distribution mechanism (such as cable/satellite). There will still be lot of content left in the open, but they won’t be the popular TV programs that usually bring in the viewers who can then be made to view poorer quality user generated stuff.

  10. jimmy lee

    Boxee has no business model other than a browser to view other people’s content which they have no control over. Add another to the DOA list.