Once again, Hulu is drawing some attention from a possible partnership with a video game console. According to a report by Bloomberg, Sony may be close to securing a deal to bring a Hulu subscription to the PlayStation Network. In fact, “the partnership could be announced as soon as next week.”
Weeks ago, Reuters ran a similar report, claiming Xbox 360 and iPad would also offer a premium Hulu service. However, these claims have not yet been fruitful. Considering the clamor for Hulu on multiple devices, these reports can be the result of wishful thinking — or Hulu is planning an aggressive multi-platform approach, not unlike Netflix.
If I was the Count from Sesame Street I would say something like, “Three! Three of the four major broadcast networks now have their content on Hulu!” (with accent, of course). ABC, which had long been a Hulu holdout, refusing to run its full-length content anywhere but on its own web site, kicked off its Hulu presence today with episodes of Grey’s Anatomy.
Grey’s is the only ABC content currently up on Hulu, and there isn’t even a whole lot of it up right now. There are just five episodes from the last season, and no clips (the show doesn’t even have clips up at YouTube, where ABC/Disney has a short-form content deal). According to a Hulu press release, over the next two weeks, more ABC shows will appear on the site including: I Survived a Japanese Game Show, The Superstars, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty and Scrubs.
In April, Disney became an equal partner in Hulu, joining fellow broadcasters FOX and NBC in the endeavor. As part of that deal, Hulu will get exclusive access to full-length programming from ABC, ABC Family and the Disney Channel, as well as popular library TV shows and films.
Like many people who own a PC, Avner Ronen found himself watching more and more video online. But he wanted to view it on the TV in his living room as well as on his laptop. "I got together with a bunch of my friends and we realized we were watching streaming video on the Web a lot more and using our TVs a lot less," Ronen says.
But they couldn’t find technology that did a good job of bridging the gap between the PC in the home office and the TV in the living room. So they created the software themselves. "We just wanted to build something that we would use," says Ronen, who emigrated to the U.S. from Israel in 1999.
The result is Boxee TV, software that grabs video and music downloaded onto a PC and then houses it in a single, easy-to-navigate location. It also lets users pull together content from a range of online video and music sources, from CBS’s CBS.com and Last.fm to Viacom’s Comedy Central and Time Warner’s CNN. Better still, when the PC is connected to a TV set with a cable that can be had for $10, Boxee lets users enjoy programming on a big TV that they’d otherwise view on an often-tiny computer screen. Ronen says 80 percent of users make the connection between their PCs and TVs.
Boxee was first released in mid-2008 to users of Apple Macintosh computers and machines running the Linux operating system. Already the software has developed a large, devoted following of almost a half million users. At the same time, Ronen and his pals have sprinted past where tech companies large and small have sputtered for the better part of a decade. For instance, Microsoft created the Media Center PC concept in 2002;…
Hulu.com just got better. In the works for a while, it’s now official: Disney, owner of ABC and ESPN, has announced an agreement to join Hulu as a joint venture partner and equity owner of Hulu. Sure, some ABC content has been available before, but expect full-length versions of current and archived episodes of shows including Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, Scrubs and even daily shows such as General Hospital and The View, all supported by ads and viewable directly on Hulu, not on ABC’s website.
The deal will also include shows from ABC Family and SOAPnet, along with some favorites from the Disney Channel, and classics from The Walt Disney Studios.
Notably absent from the lineup is content from ESPN. They have a separate deal with YouTube, so they’ll most likely stay away from Hulu.
“Hulu has shown that if you make quality content available on the web and combine it with an unbeatable user experience, viewers will come, and so will advertisers,” said Jeff Zucker, president and CEO, NBC Universal (parent company of DVICE). “The addition of some of the best content Disney/ABC has to offer will only enhance Hulu’s standing as a top site for high quality video entertainment.”
Wow. Looks what happens when everyone agrees to play nice. We all win.
We got an early look at Boxee’s Ubuntu version on Ubuntu’s 9.04 beta, and it runs just as smoothly as the more popular Mac and Apple TV releases (actually, smoother than the Apple TV, given the hardware constraints on that platform). The latest release throws all the latest improvements, like Pandora music streaming, local and national radio feeds from RadioTime, the App Box “store” for adding the newest apps and channels being developed with Boxee’s API, and the XUL-based browser that can be pointed at any video on the web—including the ever-popular shows and movies from Hulu‘s streams.
Ubuntu users installing for the first time can head to Boxee’s download site for installation instructions; those with a previous Boxee installed and included as a repository should see Boxee updated the next time they update their system. Mac users can update using the automatic notification from Boxee’s home screen, and Apple TV users should download both the latest Launcher app and Boxee from the Launcher menu. Windows users: Boxee’s developers say you should get yours in June.
iPhone users may soon have access to the wide variety of TV programs available on Hulu. This website is reportedly working on an app that will let users access its content on Apple’s smartphone.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Hulu is an online service that offers a wide selection of hit TV shows and some movies for free. It streams video in the Adobe Flash format, which the iPhone currently doesn’t support.
However, an app that will bring Hulu support to this device will be released the next few months, according to Silicon Valley Insider, who cites “a plugged-in industry executive” as the source.
Not that there should be any shock surrounding the formal introduction of boxee’s App Box and API — after all, both were teased sufficiently during last month’s bleeding edge alpha release — but we’re still thrilled to see things moving along nicely. This week, the open source media platform launched both an API and an application portal, both of which will act to bring all manners of third-party gems to the media browsing world. boxee doesn’t plan on being any sort of gatekeeper (at least for now), which hopefully will spur innovation and get more developers interested.
In related news, ArsTechnica has also found that boxee is currently in talks with a few big players in the hardware space, essentially hoping to get its 1s and 0s onto game consoles, Blu-ray players and other set-top-boxes. There’s no clue as to the whens and wheres, but we suspect this means there will be no dedicated STB in the near future — for better or worse.
Mac and Apple TV owners just got a bug-fixed Boxee alpha that includes a working Hulu, Pandora and other App Box releases, and other highlights from the last two test releases.
If you jumped on the bleeding-edge Boxee test releases to get Hulu working again, or Pandora, PBS and RadioTime in the latest test build, you’ve already seen most of what’s new in Boxee’s latest alpha release. But the Boxee team spent a week fixing the bugs and connection issues in those test releases and has issued a new Mac alpha (linked at bottom) and Apple TV release (which users can get to through their AppleTV’s Launcher/Downloads menu).
The big, forward-looking stuff is actually happening behind the scenes, though. The open-source media center officially rolled out its API last night, offering anyone the opportunity to develop Boxee plug-ins using its Python-based API, and promising not to be a “gate keeper (or bottleneck) in deciding which applications are published.”
And, as Boxee’s founder notes in a press release, you can pretty much add any video you see on the web to your menu, because the latest release uses a Firefox-like XULRunner browser to play video (which is why Hulu RSS feeds have been working more consistently of late):
to try out the new browser you can add RSS feeds
in the App Box or go to Video > Browse > Add Source and add a URL -
boxee will try to display the page and if there is a video on the page
play the video.
Next up on Boxee’s agenda are a similar bug-fix session and upgrade for the Windows (private) alpha and Ubuntu releases, along with releasing the Windows version publicly. What would you like to see developed for Boxee and released through the App Box? Share your unofficial development specs in the comments.
To be honest, we’re still quite confused as to why Hulu’s content partners think it makes sense to stop Boxee from showing Hulu videos. If you don’t know, Boxee is basically a web browser for your television. If you have a computer hooked up to your TV, you can watch Hulu (and other) videos. You could do it via any browser you want — including Firefox or IE — but Boxee is designed to function better for TVs. Yet, for some reason, even though it’s just a browser, Hulu’s content partners freaked out and demanded Boxee stop. Since then, there’s been a bit of a technology back and forth, with Boxee offering workarounds, and Hulu trying to block Boxee’s workaround (which Boxee got around quickly again). The latest, as pointed out by a few readers, is that Hulu is now trying to encrypt its content to keep it from working in non-browser apps.
Of course, Boxee on the Mac is just like a browser, so the encryption doesn’t even do anything — and Boxee is planning to upgrade its software on other platforms to do the same thing. Honestly, though, the whole thing seems like a waste. Hulu is dedicating technical resources towards making its content less useful, and trying to stop people from using the content in perfectly reasonable ways. That’s a recipe for failure. Even if the company is only doing this to appease angry content partners, you have to wonder how Hulu can possibly survive while sitting between content providers who want to lock everything down, and users who want to do the opposite.
We’ve pointed out in the past that you don’t compete against piracy by being lame, and you have to give Hulu at least some kudus for doing its best early on not to be lame (despite plenty of expectations to the contrary). However, every time we’ve mentioned Hulu around here, we’ve noticed an awful lot of pissed off comments from users, who complain about too many advertisements or the ridiculous location restrictions (or music restrictions) that Hulu has to put on content at the request of content owners. And, now, with the removal of Hulu content from Boxee, some are beginning to question whether or not Hulu is driving people back to unauthorized options for TV content.
The real question, however, may be whether or not it was ever possible for Hulu to really succeed. This isn’t to knock the team at Hulu, who have actually gone beyond most expectations in delivering what they could, with a definite focus on usability and making the service as reasonable and useful as possible. But, with so many competing interests tugging them in every direction, it’s nearly impossible for the company to actually satisfy the content providers and viewers at the same time. We’ve seen it over and over again — with content providers having totally unrealistic expectations of what sort of limitations need to be placed on their content — not realizing that whether they like it or not, there are other options out there.
Hulu did a pretty good job “competing” with those free options, but as content providers get more and more assertive with their demands for limitations, it seems likely that the company is going to find it more and more difficult to compete against better, more engaging and less annoying (if illegal) competing sites. You don’t compete against free by being lame. Hulu seems to recognize that — but Hulu’s content providers still haven’t gotten the message.