The world’s worst manager, Jeff Zucker, who just so happens to be the president of NBC Universal, was on Capitol Hill today trying to persuade lawmakers to allow the proposed merger with Comcast go through. Interesting to note his take on Boxee’s relationship with Hulu, which, you’ll recall, has been something of a mess. Boxee adds Hulu compatibility, Hulu breaks said compatibility, Boxee re-works its code so that Hulu works again, Hulu breaks compatibility again, etc. And on and on and on.
Anyhow, here’s the relevant exchange, as carefully jotted down by Boxee’s point guards :
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA): What about Boxee? Mr. Zucker you probably are in a better position to answer that. Did Hulu block the Boxee users from access to the Hulu programs?
Zucker (NBC): 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.
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA): “Well would you have negotiations with Boxee upon request?”
Zucker (NBC): “We have always said that we’re open to negotiations.
This is truly dramatic stuff, congressmen going back and forth over the fate of such items as “Chuck” and “The Biggest Loser.”
Anyhow, Boxee’s aforementioned point guards would like to point out the obvious, that whenever someone visits Hulu via Boxee, they’re doing so in the same manner as you would if you were to type http://www.hulu.com into Firefox or Internet Explorer. Boxee isn’t working any voodoo here—certainly isn’t “hacking” anything—when viewing Hulu.
The same principle applies when you use Plex on Mac OS X: you’re merely accessing the feed, so to speak, that Hulu provides. There’s no chicanery going on.
My guess is that this is all about money, and that the relevant parties haven’t agreed upon a dollar amount yet. I mean, it’s ludicrious to charge people to view Hulu on Boxee—again, there’s no charge when you type in http://www.hulu.com into you Firefox address bar—since you’re seeing the same content, ads and all, but this is the world we live in.
I wonder: would NBC want money from me if I were to connect my laptop to my TV, then watch Hulu in plain ol’ Firefox? I mean, what’s the difference, besides navigating a prettier UI to get to Hulu?