I was a huge fan of Hulu on Boxee, and as a result of Hulu pulling out, I have really stopped seeing Hulu as a viable source of content for me, since I’d much rather watch programming on my large television screen than on my computer. Instead, I’ve been using services like iTunes on my Apple TV, completely sidestepping the content providers’ ad-revenues. I prefer the lack of ads and the better quality (and yes, quality on iTunes has gotten better, to the point that I now consider BitTorrenting these shows to be more of a hassle than using iTunes, a revision on my previous position, despite the fact that the shows are still DRM-infested. If I want to send something to a friend, I’ll then go through the trouble of firing up the ol’ BT client), but it does come at a monetary price. The ads on Hulu are a smaller price to pay—it’s a fair trade—but I do take a huge exception to Hulu telling me that I can’t use my TV for watching their content—that I HAVE to watch things on their terms, only on the device they want me to use.
As someone working in a similar industry, and facing similar problems, I understand the content providers’ hands being tied, in terms of their being dependent on the business model that things like Hulu potentially cannibalize, and I also understand that change at large corporations is not easy—it takes time and planning to turn a big ship around. But honestly, I can’t see how Hulu on Boxee hurts their bottom line: they’re still getting ad impressions, and in extreme cases like mine, where I don’t have a cable subscription at all to begin with, ad impressions via Hulu on Boxee are not cannibalizing ad impressions on the broadcast networks.
While my case is probably the exception for now, as less tech savvy people start to realize that things like Boxee are out there, and are very easy to use, that situation will change. It’s untenable for me to pay a cable company for a slew of channels I don’t want, when the specific content I do want is individually available for me online. As the economy gets worse, and people start cutting down on their expenses, alternatives like Hulu on Boxee may very well become the norm. Content providers would be well served to work with outfits like Boxee, instead of flat-out shutting them down. The long term benefits are evident, but the network execs need to start looking beyond this financial quarter—or this season’s ratings—to be able to see the forest for the trees.
Boxee has now implemented what amounts to a work-around to the absence of Hulu on their software, and I applaud them for it. Time will tell if the fight they’ve got coming will be one they win. I sure hope so.