By Harry McCracken | Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 3:41 pm
Okay, now this just stinks: Boxee, the cool software that lets you pipe Internet TV and other digital media onto a TV set, is doing away with its support for Hulu, the most significant purveyor of streaming versions of broadcast TV programming. I take the move personally, since I recently bought an Apple TV in large part to run Boxee on it, and in particular to watch Hulu.
But I’m not mad at Boxee (who’s in a tough spot, and whose support for Hulu was unofficial rather than based on a partnership), and I don’t think I’m irked with Hulu, either. The latter company’s blog is explaining that its content providers were ticked off over their stuff being available on Hulu and therefore forced the issue. Minor kudos to Hulu for addressing what’s happening on the blog rather than pretending that it’s not a big deal for Boxee fans.
(Side note: I don’t know whether there’s any connection between this and the news that Ed Oswald reported on earlier today involving Hulu programming disappearing from TV.com.)
The instinctive response, of course, is to start slamming those content providers as clueless Hollywood types who don’t get the Internet and hate their TV-consuming customers. And it is a shame that they’re depriving Boxee users of their stuff: If the whole business model of Hulu involves monetizing TV by supporting it with ads, you’d think that Boxee eyeballs would be just as valuable as any others that watch those ads. Maybe more so, given that anybody who’s an early adopter of Boxee is likely a particularly hardcore TV fan.
Neither Boxee’s nor Hulu’s commentary on this development explains why content owners don’t want their shows on Boxee. My guess is that A) they’re uneasy with having stuff show up in an environment they don’t control; and B) they’re still not comfortable with Internet TV showing up on TV, where it competes more directly with the old-fashioned broadcast incarnations of the same programs. As well-done as Hulu is, I suspect that it’s still a pretty lousy advertising medium compared to prime time. (The Hulu shows I catch, at least, are often supported by public-service messages rather than big-name sponsors.)
Spo short-term, I’m disgruntled over not being able to watch Hulu on Boxee; long-term, my question is this: Do Hulu’s content providers have a problem with Boxee in particular or Hulu-on-a-TV in general? My hope is that Hulu is actively working on other means of bringing its nifty service to the living room; if Hollywood is short-sighted enough to nix that, then by all means let the name-calling begin.
And hey, does anyone want to buy a slightly-used Apple TV?