Hulu.com had one of the best superbowl commercials, where the increasingly menacing and chubby Alec Baldwin explains Hulu’s plans for world domination as a brain-eating alien.
I thought they were kidding and just pretending to be ruthless and menacing aliens.
But today Hulu announced that it is dispatching Boxee in one fell swoop by preventing the very popular, award winning service from distributing Hulu’s content. Boxee’s approach was allowing people to view the Hulu content on regular TVs – in a sense focusing on the opposite direction of Hulu which is allowing you to view TV shows on computer and mobile devices. The Boxee/Hulu combination could be used to cut out a cable or satellite provider while retaining a lot of that functionality, but I don’t think this is what bothered Hulu. Instead I’m guessing they simply are dispensing with the big happy family convergence model and doing their Web 2.0 business the old fashioned way – kill your competitor before they can grow to threaten you.
Hulu’s apologetic blog post “sorry we ate your brain Boxee”
Fred Wilson’s take. As a Boxee investor it’s not surprising he’s unhappy though I’m guessing he expected a buyout rather than a freeze-out.
If I was a better advocate for the virtues of convergence, open media, and copyright dodging I’d express more outrage but I don’t really have dog in this fight, and frankly I’m tired of the predictable and short sighted arguments on both side of the convergence and copyright issues.
New media folks whine about how the big players need to see the light and give away their high cost of production stuff and will make more by doing so when of course they will not make more. Legacy media profits have come in large part from controlling the means of distribution and profits will fall as that control goes away. I don’t see this loss as anything all that significant. Our entire culture is adrift in a sea of media mediocrity and whatever replaces it is more likely to improve rather than diminish our lives.
Old media folks are on even weaker ground when they suggest that users benefit from copyright rules, which currently do far more to protect the interests of the vast network of distribution and marketing middlemen than the interests of most artists and end users. Does anybody seriously think that pruning the songs and mega profits of Britney Spears or the Jonas Brothers is worthy of more than a tiny footnote in music history? Even now, as the old rules fall away and are ignored by end users we are seeing something of a niche musical renaissance as artists who had no chance in LA or Nashville can make their mark, promote, and distribute their work online. Few will make millions this way but many will be able to keep doing what they love and entertaining fans – in many cases establishing closer relationships with fans than any superstar could ever enjoy.
If Boxee fans show enough loyalty Hulu may even have to regurgitate their tiny competitor, though I’d guess Hulu is already close to launching their Boxee equivalent.
The Hulu aliens ate Boxee’s brain, and the show goes on.