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You'll never really get Hulu on your TV, so stop whining

As Boxee announced the (long overdue) release of it's Windows version, geeks everywhere itching to cut the Cable TV cord -- presumably leaving the one connected to the cable modem alone -- sighed lovingly, and once again began to wax poetic on whether or not Hulu would come back to Boxee.

Even Avner Ronen, CEO of Boxee sounded hopeful in his quick interview with NewTeeVee.

I on the other hand, think all of you are nuts. Hulu is not (officially) available on your TV and it never will be.

There, I said it. And I don't think I'm wrong.

In the event that I am wrong? I'm still right. "Real" Hulu for your TV would be embedded in some device like the Roku for Netflix, and you'll pay handsomely for it. Don't believe me? The new guy over at Hulu certainly does.

We'll just take our toys and build a Paywall

Asked recently if Hulu would ever charge for content, Jonathan Miller said, "in my opinion the answer could be yes."

Miller happens to be the Chief Digital Officer at Newscorp, and the guy tapped with turning Rupert Murdoch's new media investments into profitable entities, not just cash losing experiments. Newscorp owns close to 30% of Hulu so, it's likely that when meetings happen, they at least let the guy speak.

He's no light-weight tossing about miscalculated ideas, either. As head of AOL between 2002 and late 2006, Miller was instrumental in restructuring AOL from a paywall based company into one who gave away content liberally in order to draw you into its web of advertising inventory. He's no stranger to the free-love, free-content, ad sales will solve it all world, and yet he's already floating the idea of making Hulu, at least in part, a subscription.

But, wait..Grant? What about the Hulu Desktop?

The recent release of the Hulu Desktop software and a "lean-back viewing experience" seems to have caused a great deal of confusion among the steaming video faithful. After all, if you can just go download the Hulu Desktop, that's no different than being able to click a Hulu icon on your Boxee thing-a-ma-bob right?

Wrong. From Hulu Desktop's license agreement:

Hulu grants you a license to install and use the Hulu Software on your personal laptop or desktop computer ("Personal Computer") for the sole purpose of streaming content that is available on Hulu's site located at ("Hulu Content") on your Personal Computer.

You may not download, install or use the Hulu Software on any device other than a Personal Computer including without limitation digital media receiver devices (such as Apple TV) [...] (collectively "Prohibited Devices").

"Prohibitied Devices" starts to sound an awful lot like most Boxee set-top configurations, does it not?

Further disturbing your "I'm gonna stream Stargate SG-1 to my big screen for a secret Richard Dean Anderson drool-fest" dreams is another sentence in the agreement. If I can still read lawyer-speak, it does its best to say "don't plug in your TV" without actually saying it. A point which may have been a convenient way to appease the anti-Hulu-on-TV rights-holders without poking the AV geeks directly in the eye with a sharp stick.

You may not use any hardware, software or service other than the Hulu Software to stream, re-encode, project or transmit Hulu Content. (emphasis added)

I'm not saying the Hulu police are coming to your house if you plug your laptop into that DLP tv or projector but, I am saying Hulu's lawyers left the door open to say no to just about anything.

So where's my harmonious convergence of TV and Internet? I'm entitled!

With Hulu breaking the inertia -- now rolling towards the paywall -- and Boxee showing all of geek kind -- if only for a few glorious moments -- how awesome all that content would be if it were accessible through a unified and slick interface, true "convergence" is closer than ever. What hasn't gotten closer, and in fact isn't close at all, is a model that will allow content providers to make money, viewers to pay an acceptable price -- or support their habit through ads -- and cable companies to not stroke-out paying for rights to channels no one watches, even as the cost of delivering all that high-speed data drops like a rock.

Hulu isn't profitable, and is still groping for a model. Boxee isn't profitable, and doesn't have an announced model. AppleTV, though cool, is a near-dismal failure -- save for the thousands of geeks who've installed Boxee. Windows Media Center is a toy, and Ballmer doesn't have the huevos or surgical skill to take Hollywood and the TV networks for a ride. Motorola's Set-top boxes show they're nowhere near the software sophistocation needed to have a fair fight. And Tivo, once promising as a potential convergence powerhouse, has become a poster child for how to disenfranchise customers, even when you have a great product.

The question I leave open to you with is, "Who is winning this fight?"

Tags: Avner Rosen, Avner-Rosen, AvnerRosen, boxee, hulu



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