Boxee And Hulu Trade Blows In Congressional Hearing

The relationship between Boxee and Hulu has been strained ever since early 2009, when Hulu suddenly and unexpectedly removed its content from being available to Boxee users. If you're not aware, Boxee is merely a software overlay that acts as a portal to web content; it essentially opens content from web sites the same way a typical web browser would, but for whatever reason, Boxee claims that NBC Universal (who owns Hulu content) requested that all Hulu content be yanked from Boxee.

Strangely, not much has been said about the ordeal since 2009. Call it the Cold War of Content, if you will. Recently, the United States Congress become an unexpected venue for the discussion surrounding the deadlock to continue, and both sides had interesting viewpoints on the standoff. The hearing was called to discuss the proposed acquisition of NBC Universal by Comcast, but things got interesting with the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, Rep. Rick Boucher, asked Jeff Zucker (CEO of NBC) “What about Boxee?”.  Here’s the clip with the transcript below:

    Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA): What about Boxee? Mr. Zucker you probably are in a better position to answer that. Did Hulu block the Boxee users from access to the Hulu programs?

    Zucker (NBC): This was a decision made by the Hulu management to, uh, what Boxee was doing was illegally taking the content that was on Hulu without any business deal. And, you know, all, all the, we have several distributors, actually many distributors of the Hulu content that we have legal distribution deals with so we don’t preclude distribution deals. What we preclude are those who illegally take that content.

    Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA): “Well would you have negotiations with Boxee upon request?”

    Zucker (NBC): “We have always said that we’re open to negotiations.”

Boxee responded to the transcript by saying that its software "uses a web browser to access Hulu’s content – just like Firefox or Internet Explorer." The company also pointed out that Boxee doesn't steal video or put ads on top of it, and while Mr. Zucker maintains that the original decision was made by Hulu’s management, Boxee asserts that the original request came from NBC. What's interesting here is that Boxee isn't out for blood; they're simply out to make things right for the consumer. Boxee states that they are open to negotiations, and that they'll be contacting Zucker in hopes of getting some sort of agreement in place. That's exactly the kind of stuff we like to hear. Hopefully this programming nightmare will be behind us soon enough, and the million+ Boxee users can finally access Hulu's stock of content without resorting to alternative means.