Hulu and Boxee disconnect

Mere hours ago, Hulu’s CEO Jason Kilar, in his Doing Hard Things blog entry, announced that Hulu’s content would soon be unceremoniously jerked from Boxee, the service that allows you to stream mounds of video content from the Internet to a computer or TV-attached device (such as a lightly hacked Apple TV).

In this blog entry Kilar states, “Our content providers requested that we turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we are respecting their wishes.” This sounds perfectly reasonable—Hulu certainly doesn’t want to offend its content partners. Except Hulu’s content partners and its overlords are one in the same—Fox and NBC. Given that relationship, a more genuine sentiment might read, “We told ourselves to turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we respected our wishes.”

He then goes on to say:

“Our mission to make media dramatically easier and more user-focused has not changed and will not change.”

Except, of course, by pulling the plug on Boxee and its access to the TV, Hulu has made a change that’s completely Hulu/NBC/Fox-focused rather than user-focused. Television programming served to a computer and not the family TV is, in no way, easier. It’s more difficult and more limiting. That’s one reason Boxee is so popular. People Do Not Want To Watch TV On Their Computers.

And then this:

“The maddening part of writing this blog entry is that we realize that there is no immediate win here for users.”

And, unfortunately, there’s likely to be a greater loss for Hulu and its “partners.” Prior to Boxee, many people interested in watching recent TV shows on their televisions turned to BitTorrent, a reasonably painless (though ethically questionable) way to download high-quality versions of programs you managed to miss. With the advent of Boxee, it was pretty hard to manufacture reasons to not do the right thing. Hulu got the hits, you watched the ads, and everybody’s happy.

With the rug pulled out from Boxee, how many will return to BitTorrent rather than be forced to sit in front of their computers to watch the latest episode of The Office? My guess is, more than a few. And that translates into fewer hits, fewer ads watched, and greater antipathy toward networks just when they finally seemed to be getting a clue.

And to finish up:

“For those Boxee users reading this post, we understand and appreciate that you’re likely to tell us that we’re nuts. Please know that we do share the same interests and won’t stop innovating in support of the bigger mission.”

No, Jason, I appreciate that you’re stuck with the unpleasant task of perfuming the same old short-sighted excrement the television industry flings around every so often. In a time when consumers want greater control of their media, you offer it and then take it away. If that’s your idea of shared interest, you’re right, that’s nuts.

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