Google TV Creates Frenemies out of Hulu and Boxee

Longtime opponents make a deal

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For a while, Boxee, a little-known service that allows you to Watch web videos on your television, was the scourge of big-time TV networks. In an effort to squash the start-up service, the networks blocked Boxee from accessing Hulu, which is owned by Fox, ABC and NBC Universal. But now, the war is finally over. Boxee has reached a deal with the networks and by the end of the year its service will offer Hulu Plus for what will probably be $10/month. What brought the two sides together? Mutual enemy Google TV, observers speculate:

  • The Threat of Goolge TV Brought Them Together, writes Peter Kafka at All Things Digital:

The arrangement with Hulu... marks the end of a conflict that dates back to February 2009. That’s when Hulu insisted that Boxee take down links to its service, then tried severing the connections itself... The big networks have warmed to Boxee in the last year or so. And with the appearance of Google TV, which offers something similar to Boxee, they appear to be more amenable to working with [Boxee].

How do these changes affect the Boxee equation? Rather positively, I'd say. Google TV's browser-based attack on streaming video has been a washout, thanks to key content providers blocking their sites from Google's hardware. By signing up app-based partners (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vevo, etc.), Boxee may be sacrificing its bad boy image, but it's also ensuring that the content people are buying the box for will actually be there when they turn it on. Yes, most of the good stuff now has to be paid for--but such is the price of legitimacy. (Don't worry, torrenters: The extensive codec support means that you'll still be able to watch all your ill-gotten gains on your big-screen TV.)
  • It's Also a Win for the Networks, writes Ben Patterson at Yahoo News:
As far as the networks are concerned, streaming videos on the Web and watching them on your TV are two very different things. Network and pay-TV executives don't feel particularly threatened by Web surfers watching "30 Rock" on their laptops, but streaming shows over a set-top box to your big-screen HDTV, well ... that sounds like a viable substitute to paying for a cable or satellite TV subscription.

Hence, you get situations like the network TV-owned Hulu switching off its free video streams to Boxee, as well as the big TV networks blocking their online videos from Google TV.

The only solution that seems to work, for now (at least for the set-top box makers) is the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach, which Boxee appears to be taking with the paid Hulu Plus service. 

  • It's In Hulu's Best Interest to Offer Its Content for Free, writes Rahsheen at BlackWeb 2.0:

Unfortunately, Hulu is still blocking access to their free content for Boxee users... Hulu will need to think really hard about this whole Boxee blocking procedure. They are doing well for the time being, but can’t afford to lose any eyeballs.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.