Boxee? Hulu? Boxee is a free desktop-based media player application for Mac and Windows and Hulu is an internet-based TV content  provider offering videos from multiple media partners.

This post is a response to Hulu’s request that Boxee discontinue offering Hulu TV through it’s application while Hulu sorts out its relationship with its content providers.

You know I’m a Hulu fan and a Boxee fan. I’ve blogged and tweeted about them enough to risk fanboy status. So when I heard Hulu asked Boxee to cut Hulu access I was drafting a rant saying Hulu just doesn’t get it. Then I read the “Doing Hard Things” post by Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu and have a renewed respect for the vision the Hulu executives are trying to uphold. I especially appreciated the candor Mr. Kilar has brought to their decision. I think it’s the wrong decision, but his astute regard for users wins him high marks and bodes well for Hulu.

The future of TV is not broadcast; it’s internet-driven. The future of web-based TV is the full, large-screen, living room experience.

Hulu has a chance to build ad revenues back into a large-screen TV experience. And they need an application landscape or set-top landscape with players like Boxee, Xbox, Playstation 3, &c, in order to make that happen.

Hulu is in a unique negotiating position. They’re generating ad revenue from television in a time when broadcast ad revenues are on a steady decline and ad dollars increasingly pushed from TV to the internet. Hopefully Hulu’s demonstrated success gives them clout amongst content partners that seemingly don’t understand the future of television — or at least Hulu’s possible stake in that future. Hulu knows the media company butters their bread, and so of course they’re not going to alienate them. The trick for Hulu is to show the media companies that the future of TV is tied to the internet. The future of internet-based TV is the full, large-screen, living room experience.

But Hulu has an uphill battle if its media partners don’t understand the power and the opportunity of desktop media player apps like Boxee and Plex that put web and desktop content on large-screen TVs. Hulu cannot become a long-term success without third-parties enabling Hulu to reach beyond the desktop PC to a large-screen experience. That’s the prize at stake for Hulu. The future of internet-TV is not relegated to laptops; it’s future is the full living room experience.

Lose? Lose? Lose?

Who loses in this particular Hulu + Boxee episode if Hulu can’t soften the content partners? The content partners lose control of their content and Hulu loses ad revenue as Boxee users turn back to torrents for catch-up TV. What’s worse for Hulu is it risks losing ground in the push for relevance on a large-screen experience. Boxee loses momentum as a compelling alternative to subscription TV.

What happens to Boxee? It’s not going away. It’ll stay there in early adopters’ living rooms, attached to big-screen TVs, foreshadowing — and in some ways — sidestepping the coming power struggle between the cable and satellite operators, the content providers and the television device manufacturers.

Enough blogging. I’m going to find out how to get Hulu onto my Xbox.

5 Responses to “Hulu + Boxee: Internet-based TV is so misunderstood”

  1. Terence Mascarenhason 19 Feb 2009 at 9:44 am

    Thanks for the tip on getting Hulu on the Xbox. I’m going to give that whirl as well. Hulu getting pulled from Boxee is unfortunate, but frankly not all that surprising. The heavy hand of the media owners will continue to be that way until they fully realize what they are dealing with. Granted, the movie/TV industry is better poised than the music industry was. But in a time of economic uncertainty and declining ad dollars, you can bet that they’re going to hold on as tight as they for as long as they can.

  2. Danny Pampelon 19 Feb 2009 at 4:31 pm

    It is a shame that Boxee’s interface is so sluggish to begin with. As a fan of Plex I really couldn’t understand how someone could put up with the Boxee UI. Sure Plex has faults but it feels crisper and more responsive to me. They’re both offshoots of the original XBMC project and while Boxee seems to have focused on creating a social experience, I think the stability and technical improvements of Plex have more than won me over.

    Having a Mac Mini hooked up to the Television has allowed me to dispense with a separate DVD player and even cable TV. I can get Netflix On-Demand either through the mac or through the Xbox 360 (Heroes is particularly nice to get the day after airing, although only in 2.1 sound), any TV Shows I would want I can watch online. Why pay more for cable?

    Oh and if you want to go the Play On route, you can get Hulu in Plex also, here is a quick guide (not mine):

    But I wouldn’t go spending my cash just yet, if they’ve shut down Boxee, others could be next.

  3. Joe Pembertonon 20 Feb 2009 at 5:17 pm

    Hulu has the opportunity to bring advertising revenue back to the large-screen TV experience in ways that broadcast or cable with a DVR can no longer provide.

    Hulu (and other web-based TV providers) will have to partner with third-parties like Boxee, Xbox, Wii, Slingbox, etc, to create the large-screen experience that will put advertising, and media partner control, back into the equation.

  4. Danny Pampelon 22 Feb 2009 at 11:11 am

    Plex just got updated, Ted, Hulu, Youtube + more

  5. andypolaineon 05 Mar 2009 at 12:14 am

    If you live outside the USA, this whole issue is ten times worse and you realise how ridiculous current licensing deals are. I’m a native English speaker and live in Germany where they dub everything. I don’t want to watch Family Guy or films dubbed, when so much of the humour and acting comes through the voice. iTunes? There are some English shows, but not many. Hulu spits up the message that you are outside the US and can’t watch the shows. There are two options remaining: wait for the DVD to come out in Germany (read: two seasons later at least) or BitTorrent.

    The net result is that the rights holders lose out because they simply make it too difficult to access content easily. The irony is that I want to pay for the content, but they make it impossible for me to do so. I can’t buy a US version of a show in Germany.

    I feel pretty certain that if they opened up all their content worldwide and put together an easy interface to pay for it (iTunes, Amazon, Bozee, Hulu…) they would easily make back whatever they believe they are losing through ‘piracy’. If you’re really going to steal content, you probably wouldn’t pay for it in the first place. But it’s absurd to be forced into a position where you either don’t watch something (lose) or have to steal it in order to watch it (lose again).

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