Monday, February 23, 2009
Boxee and Future of TV
As many people already know, Hulu (at the behest of some content holders) recently asked Boxee to pull their shows from its service. If you don't know about this, read about it here, but the short version is as follows. Boxee is a great little open source program that helps you get your entertainment from your computer to your TV. Using it, you can watch everything you've downloaded on your tv, but also (until recently) tie in programs from Hulu, Netflix and others. You can also listen to music, look at Flickr photos and a bunch of other stuff.
Of course you can do all of this without Boxee, but it makes it a little easier as you can use your remote. Many people apparently have been using it to watch TV shows from Hulu. Apparently, some lawyer got wind of this and within days got Hulu shows pulled from Boxee. This is beyond stupid - as other bloggers have suggested before me - you can almost imagine what happened. Some idiot lawyer who doesn't understand the internet or where things are going heard that Hulu programs were on Boxee. At first, s/he thought, wow this boxee thing is great - more people watching our programs on Hulu means more eyeballs, means higher CPMs and that's great for us - more money. And they're watching it on their computer, what a crappy experience, so it won't cut into our business. Five days later, someone showed them that they could easily watch the same shows on their TV and the little lawyer's brain melted as it tried to comprehend this scenario - wait, they're now watching our tv programs on a tv and it isn't through our existing deals with affiliates and/or cable companies - yikes. That people can do this anyway, lost on this poor lawyer, so out go the cease and desist letters.
Sounds a lot like the smart business moves the music industry has made online. Already tons of people are saying screw this, I'll just go back to pirate networks. The netowkrs/content-holders could have helped build the future, but is instead fighting it. Hulu apparently understands how stupid this is, but they are stuck in a bad situation. Boxee is stuck in an even worse situation, but they are trying to do something positive about it. This weekend, they launched a wiki where anyone can help them build an argument, or pitch, to broadcasters about why they should work with Boxee. It's a great way to involve your audience in making your case, and I applaud it.
Right now, this argument is just about Boxee and Hulu, but as this debate widens it will likely affect how we access content in the future, or at least be one of the pieces of the puzzle. As cable companies start floating ideas like having their own free portal where you can access this content only if you pay for their broadband and/or cable service, such arguments become much more important. Eventually, this all ties in to net neutrality, as well as to the future of distribution - which at the end of the day effects the small indie player as much, or more than, the broadcasters. So, if you care about how these things pan out - join the action on the wiki!