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.
Youtube was probably as tailor-made for copyright woes as it was for success. Apart from a copyright infringement law suit filed by Viacom, it is also contesting the claims made by a group of copyright owners in a separate class action law suit.
Having remained in the shadows of the competing yoke of Youtube and Hulu for the entire span of its existence, and with revenues, or lack of it, rubbing salt into its yawning wounds, this fresh attempt to sneak out of those long shadows is understandable.
Its current senior VP of engineering, Matt Zelesko, will replace Mike Volpi, though Volpi will continue to be chairman. The impact of the shakeup will pervade through its ranks as it plans to prune its staff.
Although major ABC shows are reported to be at the heart of the discussions, the sources haven’t ruled out the possibility of the talks being expanded to include more content from Disney’s stable. Hulu is a joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp with each having a 45% stake. A source has revealed that one of the arrangements being discussed is to allow Disney to be on equal footing with the two majority stakeholders.
Meanwhile, Disney and Youtube have struck a deal paving the way for ad-backed Youtube channels featuring videos from Disney and ESPN. These video channels will only be available in the U.S and won’t feature entire shows from the Disney stable. The ESPN channel and the ABC channel are scheduled to go live in April and May respectively. But, according to another paidcontent.org report, Disney’s deal with Youtube will not affect its talks with Hulu.
Some users of Netflix’s streaming service have groused about dwindling performance in recent times. The dip in performance has not only nettled users but also engendered speculation as to its cause. The most plausible conjecture is that video streams are being deliberately throttled by Netflix.
“Also, routing to different ISPs in the same region may be quite different, thus performance may also be quite different, even for neighbors, if they are connected to different ISPs. Moreover, congesting points can rise and fall with ISP configuration changes and other conditions,” Hunt wrote.
Hulu is celebrating its first anniversary. And what an amazing inaugural year it was for Hulu: its market share rose steadily through the year making it one of the most riveting video sites on the internet. The video-on-demand site has stepped into its second year armed with new social networking features.
Now website users can share their favorite shows with each other using the new "Hulu Friends" feature. Users can import contacts from major social networks and email services. The site ensures that friends are kept up to speed with each other’s viewing activities. This move is expected to make Hulu more enticing for advertisers.
Of the new internet startups that have emerged in the past few months, one of our favorites has to be Boxee, the streaming social media center from the team that created the acclaimed XBMC frontend. Boxee (currently still in Beta) combines popular video and podcast streams from CBS, ABC, and PBS into one slick and functional media center that turns any connected computer into an internet TV receiver. One of the best features was that it supported streaming from Hulu, which meant users could navigate through thousands of hours of content (e.g. all of Arrested Development) without opening a web browser.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.
Just today, Boxee announced that they would be discontinuing support for Hulu streaming after content providers complained and demanded that the Boxee service be shut off. In a sobering blog post, Boxee CEO Avner Ronen informed users that as of this Friday, Hulu streaming would be unavailable via their service. “We have many content partners who are generating revenue from boxee users and we will work with Hulu and their partners to resolve the situation as quickly as possible,” said Ronen. In the Boxee beta, content from Hulu retrained all of the advertising that users would see when watching a video on Hulu.com, so the issue doesn’t appear to be related to missed ad revenue opportunities. Ronen also stated that Boxee beta testers streamed 100,000 videos from Hulu just last week alone.
And what did Hulu have to say for itself? Read on.
Downloading Youtube videos has been a piece of cake for quite sometime now, though Youtube never expressly gave its assent to downloading until last month, when it made it possible for users to download videos from Barack Obama’s Youtube channel. As it turns out now, the company was just testing waters by allowing Obama’s videos to be downloaded.
Now, the video sharing website has formally approved downloading. Not all videos will be free to download, however, as users will have to pay a fee to download some of the videos. Youtube is testing an option that will let video publishers make their content available offline for free or for a price they deem fit. All payments will be processed by Youtube’s cognate company Google Checkout.
It is strange that Youtube expects users will actually be interested in paying for videos when they can be download for free through the large number of online tools available for that purpose.
Understandably, AT&T might not be the name that one thinks of when they consider a comprehensive online video search. But, remaining open minded (as one tends to do in San Francisco), you can’t help but notice how well the telecommunications giant has pulled off their very first video search site, VideoCrawler.
In conjunction with start-up company Divvo, AT&T has managed to launch VideoCrawler, a search that has more than 1,600 online video outlets latched directly into its brain. Sites such as YouTube and MySpace are among the long list of video channels available.
While they don’t offer any services for uploading your own videos, they do have a pretty impressive collection. So go ahead, search for that clip of the dog that never learned how to bark. Chances are might good that you’ll be able to track it down.
It looks like Hulu’s reign as the undisputed king of high quality online video is about to come to an end, as Universal Music Group is planning to launch a “Hulu-like” video portal. UMG’s project would offer professionally produced music videos from artists such as The Killers, Mariah Carey, Kanye West and Amy Winehouse as well as original programming.
Doug Morris, chairman and CEO of Universal is leading the charge for this new service, which has the potential to generate more revenue from music videos and offer artists a new and polished platform to show off their talents. Right now, YouTube is the leading site to view music videos online, since all four of the major labels (Warner Music Group, EMI, Sony BMG and Universal Music Group) have licensed content to the site.
The issues that still remain with YouTube are that they only see ad revenue from 3 percent of their videos, whereas Hulu is able to get ad revenue from 100 percent of their videos. This is because advertisers are more likely to put their advertising dollars into a brand that is well established, instead of user-generated content.
It should be mentioned that UMG will soon be talking with YouTube about renewing its licenses to display their content, since their current deal is up at the end of the year. However, we don't anticipate UMG pulling out of Youtube since they are reportedly happy with the promotional benefits provided to them by YouTube.
So who knows? Perhaps all of this is idle talk, or it is a legitimate venture in the works. Chances are good that we’ll find out more about this once the renewal talks have taken place.