Hulu’s preposterous exclusion of Boxee has now made it to Congress, with the head of NBC being directly asked about the continuing situation. Could this finally lead to an end of the fight or will the networks and cable companies dig their heels in further?
Boxee Vs. Hulu History
It was almost a year ago when Hulu decided to pull its content from Boxee. TV.com also lost out. The decision was made after the networks and cable companies declared they didn’t like the way their premium content was being viewed on television via Boxee via Hulu.
In essence, they were only happy with Hulu while it remained a computer-only affair. Boxee enabled Hulu to be experienced on TVs and that just wouldn’t do as it may influence people’s decision to cancel their cable subscriptions in favor of online video.
Boxee responded by issuing a workaround to the Hulu block. Which Hulu then plugged, only for Boxee to unplug it. The cat and mouse game has continued since then, with some Boxee users able to watch Hulu programming and others not.
NBC Explains To Congress
Congress is holding a hearing concerning Comcast’s proposed acquisition of NBC Universal. And it was during this that Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC, was asked about Hulu blocking Boxee users from accessing its programming.
Zucker was clearly surprised by the line of questioning and faltered the answer:
“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.”
He was then asked whether NBC would negotiate with Boxee, to which he replied, “We have always said that we’re open to negotiations.”
Why Hulu Is Wrong
Zucker, and consequently Hulu, is fundamentally wrong on this one. As Boxee explains in a measured blog response, Boxee accesses content using a Web browser. There is no taking of video, no adding of adverts. In fact, it works exactly the same way as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and the Hulu Desktop.
And yet Boxee has been singled out for exclusion from access while Microsoft, Mozilla, Google and the rest happily act as a go-between without any of these so-called “legal distribution deals” in place that Zucker referred to.
There is absolutely no logic to Hulu’s continued banning of Boxee. And Zucker’s response to the question about it and Boxee’s explanation of why he is wrong frame the issue in as succinct a way as possible.
Let’s hope Hulu and Boxee either do now come to some arrangement or that Congress pushes further for an explanation of the issues involved. Because it makes no sense whatsoever, especially as Boxee would increase Hulu’s potential audience.
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