So That's Why Hulu Hates Boxee

46 Comments

Hulu, the popular television content aggregator backed by major Hollywood companies, today launched a desktop application that can only be used on PCs. Of course, we wouldn’t expect the company to do it any other way — after all, if it ran on set-top boxes, it would dry up the lucrative money stream that flows from cable operators to Hulu’s partners and parents.

The launch of this desktop application explains why Hulu went after Boxee, the New York-based startup that developed an interesting content aggregation platform. The two companies tussled for a long time. It was believed that Hulu’s big bad backers were forcing its hand against Boxee. The launch of the desktop app shows that Hulu was being nothing but anti-competitive in an underhanded sort of way.

When All Things D’s Kara Swisher asked NBC CEO Jeff Zucker about Hulu making it difficult to watch its service on TV via software like Boxee, he said. “Right now we’re committed to Hulu being an online experience, and that’s where our vision is today, and I think that will continue.” Right! That is why Hulu released the desktop version.

http://www.hulu.com/embed/EgF07I6lLJ94Hqma-6Fi5w

46 Comments

Evan

Why does the hulu app suck? Because, it limits my viewer experience to whatever hulu (NBC Fox ABC, etc) they choose it to be. They’re essentially trying to monopolize the online video experience by controlling the medium of distribution. The same as they did with TV.

Boxee has had to change its development to make its app work like a browser. It is now basically a fancy version of firefox with a really nice remote-control-friendly interface. But, Hulu still tries to block them. If they did the same to firefox there would be a media s***storm probably involving a class action lawsuit or an anti-trust court case. But, only because Boxee is a bleeding edge technology, most people don’t understand where to draw the lines and Hulu gets away with it.

It’s not about advertisers. Boxee does nothing to prevent the commercials that come through hulu, or any of the many other content providers that can be found through Boxee.

So, why does hulu continue to attack boxee. Because, if Boxee succeeds, Hulu can’t dominate the medium.

I love the fact that I can watch shows from hulu, switch over to Ted Talks for some inspiration, study a bit by watching opencourseware from MIT, and play some pandora for background noise when I have guests over.

Hulu fights it because, if content creators realize that they can create and distribute successful revenue generating shows over the internet without the massive TV distribution syndicates, they will. NBC ABC Fox and all the other players add little or no value to the user experience, and they never have. They’re simply the cable tv channel gatekeepers.

Hulu hates boxee because it’s a direct threat to the major cable syndicates.

Here’s a new angle… Since boxee is inherently social (that’s the whole point of boxee, watch tv and share what you’re watching with friends) what happens if you’re friends tell you what shows are good and what shows suck?

Right now, the TV viewing experience is very nonsocial. How often do people get together to share/watch tv together? Not much at all. But, if people don’t know inherently know what tv shows they like, how do they find out what they like to watch.

On cable… they don’t. Because the majority of people out there who work regular jobs watch whatever is on primetime. So, whoever controls prime time controls tv.

What if consumers no longer were subjected to the crap that comes through prime time. If consumers had the freedom to choose the shows they liked on demand of their own choosing?

Then TV wouldn’t suck anymore and the companies who make sucky TV would lose their position of dominance.

Of course, with the obsolescence of prime time, news networks would lose their power to influence the masses. Scary thought for ABC/NBC/Fox because, right now, primetime news owns TV.

Think that you’re too smart/cunning/independent/self-righteous/etc… to allow something like news to influence you? Ask yourself this, how many hours did you sit, glued to the tube during Hurricane Katrina? Now, how much money/help/support did you provide during the crisis.

News gets rich during crisis and from that, they’ve managed to take over TV and are working on trying to take over internet TV.

If the major networks can manage to kill all the little apps that tap into their online sources for content. They’ll take over internet distribution of TV and TV will continue to suck as much as it always has.

I’d suggest checking out hulu on boxee to see for yourselves, but hulu has managed another hack to disrupt viewing on boxee so it doesn’t work (at the moment).

Jeff Schrock

Anticompetitive? Huh? It’s actually quite competitive. And it should be. Hulu is not some giant monopoly. They have no obligation to allow other companies to ride off their licenses and hosting infrastructure.

And if they don’t want to let Boxee gain user traction (with their content) around the TV consumption mode when they’re being boxed in by their content providers to a PC / Web”mostly” experience, they shouldn’t be labeled as “anti-competitive” for doing so.

Mona

I’ve been watching Hulu on my TV since Christmas last year (2008). It was a present…

Bob

The TV networks are not going to give away content on the Internet forever. Hulu will eventually become a subscription only site. Or, as an alternative, the Networks will work a deal with ISPs to get a cut of the new per megabyte/gigabyte billing system that is on the way to an Internet Service near you.

puckU

your using an antiquated 24″ 1920 x 1080 LCD panel for your monitor, poor you.

most people today in the UK DVi/HDMI plug their PC’s (personal computers) in to antiquated 32″ 1920 x 1080 LCD panels as their cheaper than the current 42″ and 52″ 1920 x 1080 LCD panel, and available everywere, even your local small garden centers today.

jc

Anticompetitive? What? Hulu hosts the videos. How is it anticompetitive if they don’t want another app stealing their content?

And it actually turns out that the Hulu desktop player has a way nicer interface than Boxee (especially on mac). And where is Boxee PC support anyways?

This seems like a crazy blog post. Hulu just built something pretty fantastic here… how is Boxee the story?

Scarhawk

Have you shopped for a computer monitor lately? The sweet spot is a 24″ 1920 x 1080 LCD panel that was developed for HDTV use. Just because it says HP on the bezel doesn’t mean it’s not a TV, and just because it says Panasonic doesn’t mean you can’t plug your computer into it.

Every screen is technically a computer monitor nowadays. The only thing that makes it a TV is that some box is playing video onto it. Whether that video comes through the Internet to an Intel CPU, or through some other path, is an arbitrary and pointless distinction.

Om Malik

Guys

Just to be clear, PC in this case means personal computer. Since it works both on Windows and Mac, I ended up using the phrase “PC”.

Gary Bacon II

I should have noticed the “PCs” as “Personal Computer” … sometimes I forget that PC does not equal “Windows”.

p-air

you have IBM to thank for that training. it was always about the PC vs. the Mac, heck even the commercials today continue that, note that Apple’s commercial is between the two characters, PC & Mac.

Glenn

For those several who don’t understand hardware, a “Mac” is a “PC”–always has been; it’s just not a Windows PC… or a Linux PC… or a PC. You’ve been watching too many TV commercials. :D

Hulu can keep their Desktop and “their” content.

Gary Bacon II

You guys are missing the point.

1. Hulu can be run on a Mac. The website states this.
2. Hulu’s ” content providers ” want to control where their content is consumed. Just like they always have. If you read through the FAQ at the bottom of http://www.hulu.com/labs/hulu-desktop it states:

Is the same content on Hulu.com available on Hulu Desktop?
Generally speaking the Hulu library on Hulu.com will be available through Hulu Desktop. While our goal is to have the same content library available on through all of our distribution channels, we work together with our partners to determine availability of their content on these various channels.

Not going through Boxee, iPhone, “name that device”, is due to Hulu’s “content providers” wanting to control the media consumption experience.

Antiquated thinking.

Matt_

@Jim HULUs owners NBC and Fox don’t want you watching HULU on a TV in your Living room .

Jim Kass

@Matt,

Actually, NBC/U and FOX and now DISNEY would likely prefer no-one watched their shows on Hulu at all, and instead watched on their own portals – after all, they don’t split revenue that way.

But as they realized, people want a single place for everything, not having to deal with each individual companies formats or special sites. so reluctantly they’re on-board, cannibalizing their own digital business units.

Everyone will eventually figure out that there’s not a sustainable model to rely solely on advertising against the myriad of formats video is played in online. Advertisers can’t keep up, and viewers aren’t interested in more interactive advertising, they’re interested in good content.

Advertisers can’t afford to spend billions to support content online if it doesn’t impact their bottom line. The traffic to online video is no where near the eyeballs on TV, and on sites like YouTube where traffic is huge, very little value to the marketers, cause none of those viewers are going to buy anything (they’re used to getting things for free).

@Gary
As far as content providers wanting to control where the content is going – actually, that’s almost entirely about advertising. Advertisers don’t want to put ads against just any distributor, so Hulu targets distribution insuring that ads are never placed in context of anything offensive to the advertisers.

If not for the restrictions from advertisers, the content providers would love to have their content everywhere — of course, assuming that they are getting paid from someone to do so.

Bottom line:
The “free” internet and professional media are simply not compatible. Eventually, we’re going to have to pay if we want professional media to remain available online.

Jim Kass

Uh, while I love the idea of expanding distribution… Desktop Applications don’t historically work – er, VeohTV, Joost, etc. Not sure about this strategy.

What they should have done is just integrate themselves with Windows Media Center, Apple TV and other other providers.

Hello, if your premium content is available everywhere without having to install anything new, wouldn’t you pay?

Randy

I agree… “that can only be used on PCs.” Is incorrect. They have a mac version.

Dan Callahan

I bought a $20 adaptor for my Mac that runs it on my TV. Am I violating the TOS?

Greg

Hulu needs to get its butt in gear with international content streaming… every time someone links to a Hulu clip and I get the dreaded “United States only” message, I grimace and gnash my teeth.

Every other article about the company means nothing to me, really… ’cause I’ve never used it due to those restrictions. ;)

Om Malik

Greg

I have heard they are working on it and are going after the market in Europe at the very least. More to follow in coming days.

Joe Bryant

Well, that is the risk you take when you try to run your service on top of somebody’s else’s right? See: Photobucket / Myspace, FB / app developers, Hulu / Boxee.

Om Malik

I think you are right. The so called Web 2.0 platform approach has been a bit of a non-starter, regardless of what web 2 revolutionaries might actually say ;-)

chris

The concept is viable. It just turns out that the “openness” these companies have been touting isn’t so open after all. It’s a great buzzword that can get plenty of press, but the empty promises are getting frustrating as a developer and a consumer.

Matt_

@om HULU says its TV for the Internet (even their TV ads do this ) but it seems that the internets for HULU and its owners is limited to a personal computer….HULU is so last Century

Matt_

Liz points out in her post over on NewTeeVee that the HULU Terms of Service dont want you watching HULU on a actual TV .

You may not download, install or use the Hulu Software on any device other than a Personal Computer including without limitation digital media receiver devices (such as Apple TV), mobile devices (such as a cell phone device, mobile handheld device or a PDA), network devices or CE devices (collectively “Prohibited Devices”).

So how does this work for HP Medaismart TV ?

Om Malik

Matt_

Let’s see if Hulu will try to enter my apartment. I am going to be ready for the Hulu-drama. Funny thing is that they don’t seem to acknowledge the fact that TV makers are putting full blown computers inside the TV now.

Matt

I bet there’ll be an AppleTV hack in 3…2…1… (if it has the horsepower to run it).

But seriously…this has me wanting a Mac Mini for a HTPC setup BAD.

ryan

I just tried this on my Mac Mini that’s connected to my 42 LCD TV. I prefer enjoying Hulu through the browser using a handheld mouse (gyration). The site’s UI is easier to see from far away due to a white background and large thumbnails.

Good to see something like becoming available. Maybe they will change the desktop’s UI to what is seen on hulu?

hulu on my tv

“HULU Terms of Service dont want you watching HULU on a actual TV”

Now that’s funny! I just waiting for a Hulu cop to show up at my door! PCTVCables.com

ech

Nothing in the text of your comment precludes a TV, Matt_. The hulu software can run on Jordan’s mac mini, a personal computer. What’s the problem? (I haven’t read the entire TOS, I can’t imagine why most people would.)

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