Congress held a hearing today to review the proposed purchase of NBC by Comcast. In that hearing Rep. Rick Boucher asked NBC CEO Jeff Zucker about the blocking of Boxee from Hulu content. Mr. Zucker’s answer was uncompromising, if a bit ham-handed. “What Boxee was doing was illegally taking the content that was on Hulu without any business deal,” said Zucker. He added, “What we preclude are those who illegally take that content.” He also said NBC was willing to negotiate with Boxee.
Boxee has responded to the assertion that they were engaged in illegal activity. Boxee’s Avner Ronen pointed out that they were in no way “taking” the video. Boxee simply accesses the content on Hulu via a web browser. The video is not copied, and it playes in its original form straight from the Hulu website. The process is no different than using Firefox or IE to load Hulu; there’s certainly nothing illegal about that. Ronen said he believes that Boxee users can add value to Hulu’s content, hinting that many users may be willing to pay for access to Hulu.
Ronen wrote that he intends to take NBC up on the offer to negotiate, and will contact them. However, if NBC continues to throw around words like “illegal”, the negotiations could be rocky indeed. Is this a case of a CEO being disingenuous to Congress, or just confused about technology? You can view the C-Span footage of the exchange here if you like.
The Boxee folks have found themselves lodged between content owners and its user base for some time. On one hand, Boxee has always promised to deliver as much content for the right price (i.e. free). On the other, premium content owners have gotten wise to the fact that they are missing out on serious cash by not jumping on the internet TV bandwagon.
Hence, Boxee has made some deals with said content owners to offer a Payment Platform for Boxee. They are hoping that by trying to bridge this gap they can make more content available to Boxee users, while still offering even the most premium content at a fair price. They define their business model in terms of transaction fees, which the commit to be less than the 30% charged by other digital storefronts.
They did not divulge much more in the official blog posting. The key details still to be determined are who already signed up as premium content owners, what types of premium content will be available, and when they’ll make all this happen.
One small step for Boxee? Or one giant leap for premium content owners?
This year has been a very good one for video streaming site Hulu. What started out as a niche product for the more tech-savvy, has broken through into the mainstream community. Hulu CEO Jason Kilar wrote in a blog post that Hulu has over 43 million unique visitors. That’s a 95% increase over one year ago. As the number of visitors goes up, the number of streams goes up even faster, having nearly tripled since April. The ad campaign that kicked off during the Superbowl likely started the ball rolling.
The overall amount of content on Hulu has also increased dramatically, going from 5600 hours of premium content, to over 14,000 hours. All those programs are being bought up by even more advertisers as well. Hulu has gone from 166 advertisers up to 408.
Also of note is the launch of the Hulu desktop application this year. After a long battle with Boxee, Hulu at least gave users an alternative way to view content. With all the good news, it’s easy to forget the rumors swirling around about internal battles between content owners and those running Hulu. And let’s not forget the possible pay model we’ve been hearing about. Hopefully, Hulu can get all this worked out while still preserving the good will they currently enjoy.
The folks over at Boxee released some great information and pictures about the "soon to be released" Boxee box. Boxee has partnered with networking giant D-Link to build and develop the new set-top box.
On the Boxee blog, Andrew Kippen posted some nice pictures of the new hardware. Astro Studios created the design of the box, the same folks who worked on the Xbox 360. They hope to keep the cost of the box sub-$200 and it features a slew of ports (HDMI, SPDIF, USB, 802.11n/Ethernet, to name the biggies). It also seems to be quite petite (see pictures after the jump using soda can for scale).
They expect the box to be released in quarter two of 2010. They also plan to announce more details at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.
Boxee unveiled their new UI today, and it’s quite the departure. The entire front page has been redesigned, looking much more sophisticated and packing new functionality. The front page now focuses on the personal queue, featured content, and recommendations. The new menu system allows for local files to be integrated with streaming content (both free and payed). There will also be three new apps: The Escapist, Suicide Girls, and TV Guide to the Web Clicker.
The new interface was made possible by the switch from an OpenGL graphical engine to DirectX. Nvidia has even been helping Boxee optimize the interface for use on the Ion platform with Flash 10.1 and DXVA. No details on when the new beta will be available to users, but we can’t wait.
Social media center Boxee has announced plans to move forward with hardware makers. This means that a dedicated Boxee Box will be arriving before too long. More details and mockups of the device will be available at an event on December 11th.
Boxee showed off their new software for Mac and Linux back at CES. While at CES, they began having discussions with hardware makers about the possibility of embedding Boxee in a standalone unit. Now that that’s happening, Boxee is talking more about the product as a platform.
Boxee’s goal is to make it easy for users to find the content they want. To do this they plan to give content owners and aggregators tools to develop a variety of business models (i.e. make cash money). Ultimately, Boxee would like to be on all your connected devices. Maybe someday Boxee, maybe someday…
The money keeps rolling in for Boxee, a browser-based streaming media service who managed to attract $4 million last November. In its second round of funding, Boxee has secured another $6 million in financing from Boston-based General Catalyst.
"General Catalyst brings more than just money to the table," Boxee wrote on its blog. "We wanted a partner to help us as we strengthen our relationship with big media and cable companies. As we learned (the hard way), it is a complicated world."
One of those complications came earlier in the year when Boxee was forced to drop support for Hulu streaming after content providers cried foul and demanded that the service be turned off. Boxee hopes its latest funding and resulting contacts will help the service avoid these types of conflicts moving forward.
Boxee also listed out a handful of goals, which include bringing the service out of Beta, adding more content, attracting more developers, and bringing Boxee into devices.
Stop surfing the internet for a minute (we know, a tall order) and go get your last cable or satellite TV bill. Back? Good. Now skim to the bottom and look at the total amount of money you paid for TV last month. Do you feel like you got a reasonable amount of entertainment for that $60, $80, or even $100-plus? Are you happy about the money you spend for the privilege of watching TV? We’re not. The vast majority of TV we watch is available for free, over the air. Sure, we’ll occasionally watch an episode of Flight of the Conchords on HBO or a documentary on Discovery, but most of the TV we watch is on one of the big over-the-air networks—ABC, CBS, Fox, the CW, and NBC. So we started looking for alternatives.
It turns out that the vast majority of new TV shows are available online, either as part of an ad-driven website like Hulu or TV.com, or available for sale on iTunes or Amazon’s Unbox service. However, having a PC in the living room has traditionally sucked. After all, you don’t want to hear a big, noisy PC when you’re enjoying a movie or a TV show, and using a mouse and keyboard as the primary interface just doesn’t cut it when you’re kicking back on the couch. But times have changed. These days, it’s easy to build a PC that’s quiet enough to be virtually unheard, yet powerful enough to play all the high-definition video that’s currently available.
And making the proposition even more appealing, there are software frontends like Boxee and the new Hulu Desktop that let you harness all that hardware power in an easy-to-use, remote-friendly interface that combines the massive library of streaming video on the web with the DRM-free content you rip from discs or purchase legally on the web. We’ll introduce you to a couple of the options, then help you configure our favorite. By combining a few hundred bucks’ worth of hardware with a free software app and your broadband connection, you can reduce the money you spend on entertainment from $100 a month to $100 a year.
Earlier this month Boxee, the ambitious new program that’s looking to bring a full Web content experience to your living room (that’s currently only available for Mac and Linux), announced that it would introduce a brand new, overhauled application program interface (API) and a workaround that will allow Hulu’s content to work… for now.
The new API will introduce a few applications right off the bat, including built-in support for Pandora and RadioTime. But, the new API will also allow developers to build more complex applications for the platform.
The workaround that will allow users to view content on Hulu will work by detecting video in a regular web page and then attempting to put it into full-screen view. In the past, Hulu was available as a channel right though the API, but it was blocked at the request of content partners. Not long after Boxee just grabbed the data they wanted from Hulu’s RSS feed, but they blocked that too. With any luck, this new change will allow users to view all the video content they wish.
As we inch ever close to episode 100, the team still has yet to decide on an appropriate way to celebrate. Live broadcast? video podcast? Only time will tell. But this week, the more pressing issue is the complete absence of the senior members of the staff. With Will and Gordon MIA (possibly off to renewal), the podcast is helmed by a crew of fresh face editors -- the 25 and under club. The gang discusses Intel's new dispute with Nvidia, Boxee's divorce with Hulu, and the ongoing Pirate Bay trial. Everybody shares their personal list of essential Windows apps, and we try to answer a few listener questions (mostly unsuccessfully). But even without Gordon's wisdom and rage, a rant finds its way into episode 97.
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