Yes, this is something you would need a TV to understand
February 19, 2009 9:24 AM   Subscribe

Boxee is a free media-center program (currently only for Mac and Linux), that, in addition to playing most multimedia formats, provides a portal for many popular internet streaming channels. Its interface enabled folks who used Apple Tv, or who had connected their computer to their television, to browse and watch this content much like they would a regular television broadcast. But yesterday, NBC's popular (in the US) Hulu announced that it would be pulling its programs from Boxee at the request of its content providers. While the move puzzled and angered many Boxee users, who pointed out that they still saw the same advertisements that they would see on Hulu's site, some speculate that the large media companies saw Boxee as a threat to the cable delivery system. In other words, Hulu is for laptops, not for televisions, an auxiliary instead of an alternative to traditional tv.
posted by bibliowench (77 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is this something I would need to run an alternative operating system to know about?
posted by blue_beetle at 9:27 AM on February 19, 2009


this terrifies me, because it means Hulu may pull its service from PlayOn as well, which I JUST paid for and which would be rendered essentially useless to me since I use it exclusively for 30 Rock, The Office and Battlestar Galactica.
posted by shmegegge at 9:29 AM on February 19, 2009


It's worth pointing out that Boxee is a fork of the excellent XBMC (formerly Xbox Media Center).
posted by HaloMan at 9:32 AM on February 19, 2009 [4 favorites]


That sucks. Hulu via Boxee worked rather well. It is the best fork of XBMC to date.

I know so many people that watch Hulu on their televisions—myself included—with their laptop hooked right up to the inputs. How long will it be before they try to block that? We are all watching your ads, Hulu. What more do you want?
posted by defenestration at 9:34 AM on February 19, 2009


Boxee is currently VC funded and who knows if it's making a profit or not yet, and if it's not profitable it makes sense to limit availability.


Anyway, Boxee has too dumb of a name for me to care anything about it, and the VC funding it, Fried Wilson, annoys me. Obviously copyright owners can do whatever they want with their content. The death of yet another closed platform created to monetize the internet caused by another closed platform also trying to monetize the internet doesn't worry me too much.
posted by delmoi at 9:35 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


In other words, Hulu is for laptops, not for televisions, an auxiliary instead of an alternative to traditional tv.

Unless you plug a cheap computer into the TV.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:37 AM on February 19, 2009


Honest question: Why would I use Boxee a free piece of software subject to the whims of broadcasters when I could use MythTV a Free piece of software with no such problems? Is it because with the latter I need a cable subscription or what?
posted by DU at 9:37 AM on February 19, 2009


Honest question: Why would I use Boxee a free piece of software subject to the whims of broadcasters when I could use MythTV a Free piece of software with no such problems? Is it because with the latter I need a cable subscription or what?

Both are open source programs. Boxee, along with many other features overlapping Myth, has the capability of using the proprietary API (or whatever) to stream Hulu videos/commercials. Myth doesn't have that feature since it's more geared towards recording and strictly DVR uses. But Myth could add the same feature...they're (very) roughly parallel in development as media server front ends, Boxee just added the feature first.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:50 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because with Myth you need an input (cable, satellite, etc), a tuner card, and a computer capable of recording video (reasonably fast, lots of storage). You can get by with a lot less if all you want to do is stream videos from Hulu, though you do need a decent internet connection.
posted by jedicus at 9:54 AM on February 19, 2009


Honest question: Why would I use Boxee a free piece of software subject to the whims of broadcasters when I could use MythTV a Free piece of software with no such problems? Is it because with the latter I need a cable subscription or what?
posted by DU at 12:37 PM on February 19


You wouldn't. You would use XBMC, get the hulu plugin, the youtube plugin, the netflix plugin and the videomonkey plugin that interfaces to a billion semi-legal and highly illegal divx quality video streaming sites, and then you'd live your life like a normal person instead of like a locked-in infant.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:56 AM on February 19, 2009 [9 favorites]


I use tversity a lot with my Xbox 360 for streaming things. I was reading that they were working on incorporating Hulu. I wonder if that's going to go down the tubes too? It'd be too bad. I was hoping for an easier way to watch Hulu on my television.
posted by picea at 9:57 AM on February 19, 2009


I think the "Hulu is for laptops, not for televisions" speculation is probably right but I'd add to it that content owners simply do not like other companies building profitable businesses using their content without payment. For example, record companies came to hate MTV because MTV made a fortune playing videos paid for and freely supplied by the labels. It didn't matter that MTV helped to sell a ton of CDs for the label. They still saw MTV as a business they built and should have had a piece of. I don't think it makes any difference that Boxee is free. It's becoming more popular thanks to Hulu integration and if it ever did become a revenue generator, the content owners would be fuming if they were not getting a cut. I suppose Boxee will ultimately need to license the content.
posted by gfrobe at 10:00 AM on February 19, 2009


I'm sure that the CPMs on TV are much higher than the CPMs on Hulu. If(and that's a big one) everybody starts watching Boxee on their tv the networks will lose a lot of $.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 10:00 AM on February 19, 2009


That's too bad. I've been planning on getting a media PC for my TV (I'm currently thinking about the new HDMI-having Asus EEE Box 204 which is small enough to mount to the back of the TV like a cute little parasite.)

I've been playing with both Boxee and XBMC and I hadn't decided which was going to be the big winner. Now it looks like my decision might have been made for me.
posted by quin at 10:06 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wouldn't you know, I just got a DVI-to-video cable for my laptop, downloaded Boxee, and watched Hulu on my TV for the first time last night. Seriously. At least I can still use the Hulu site interface, right?

I don't mean to second-guess our evil TV overlords, but it would seem to me that piping Hulu into a set-top box system would simply be a more efficient means of liquifying my brains for later shapeshifting alien reptile consumption. Amirong?
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:10 AM on February 19, 2009


Ha. I had never heard of Boxee before this happened. And it made me think "hey, that must have been neat. Someday when they've all got their shit together I'll probably use something like this. When it lets me skip the commercials, too."

Meanwhile, I can wait. TV, You're kind of fun, but I'm just not that into you, you know? Let me know when you care whether I'm a viewer or not. Then I'll think about it.
posted by rusty at 10:12 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Even without boxee a mac mini connected to a Sony Bravio is all you need.
posted by plexi at 10:16 AM on February 19, 2009


Is there not a way to change the user agent string? I don't see how Hulu will be able to detect that I'm using Boxee. This throws a wrench into my media center plans as well...
posted by mike_bling at 10:17 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had Boxee set up on my MythTV box and it was great for watching Hulu with a minimum of hassle. Oh well, not any more. Now I'll just watch stuff I recorded over-the-air on MythTV, cutting out the commercials, instead of watching Hulu with the commercials. Smart move there, jerks.
posted by zsazsa at 10:22 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


To anyone using Boxee:

How is this experience better or different than simply having a TV as your computer display and playing files, DVDs, and streaming video directly?

It isn't clear from the Boxee website what it does besides the shiny interface, of course.
posted by odinsdream at 10:23 AM on February 19, 2009


All I know is the guys at 4chan are gonna flip out about this.
posted by cortex at 10:23 AM on February 19, 2009 [7 favorites]


Just make certain you're not using an ATI adapter under Linux. Neither Boxee nor XMBC play nice. I haven't had this much "fun" since I had to configure early versions of slackware.
posted by bonehead at 10:26 AM on February 19, 2009


I thought this thread was going to be about Boxxxy.
posted by mippy at 10:27 AM on February 19, 2009


odinsdream, it's all about the interface. I can sit on my couch and use a normal remote control instead of a keyboard/mouse combo.
posted by zsazsa at 10:27 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


odinsdream, the interface is a big part; it makes it easy to navigate with a standard remote control as opposed to a keyboard and mouse, and all your media is in displayed in one place with the necessary codecs to make them play. It also gives you an easy way to change aspect ratios, sub-titling, and different audio feeds.

Boxee is trying to introduce a sort of social networking element as well, which I haven't played too extensively but seems like an interesting concept.
posted by quin at 10:33 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Boxee is our queen!
posted by hellphish at 10:49 AM on February 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


Additionally, XBMC (and therefore boxee) have excellent media cataloguing features.

IMO, it works best with NAS holding many seasons of television shows and thousands of CDs of music. ;)

I just wish there were a stupidly simple box I could buy that had the hardware all built in and ready to go so I could build an XBMC box capable of 1080p. One great thing about using it on the Xbox was its simplicity. It was really easy to install and all the hardware was there for using a remote control, playing DVDs and any other SD content.
posted by wierdo at 10:51 AM on February 19, 2009


Boxee is trying to introduce a sort of social networking element as well, which I haven't played too extensively but seems like an interesting concept.

My interests:
posted by 7segment at 10:57 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sorry, but I can't help thinking of her when I hear "Boxee".
posted by wastelands at 11:05 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Quin is right. It's all about seeing the buttons and links and text and such whilst parked on the couch (vs. hunched over yr laptop or whatever).

See, the people they want to watch video content currently walled off in internet land (more or less) on their nice shiny HD TVs. They also want to watch this content on their own schedule.

Netflix knows this. Boxee knows this. Hulu (or their overlords) apparently want to pretend they don't know this.

So now there are a bunch of Boxee users who feel (legitimately) shafted... who were fine watching ads in content if it meant a clear conscious and easy access... who now will feel justified in installing that bit torrent plugin and never looking back.
posted by MeatLightning at 11:12 AM on February 19, 2009


How is this experience better or different than simply having a TV as your computer display and playing files, DVDs, and streaming video directly?

It isn't clear from the Boxee website what it does besides the shiny interface, of course.


Is that insufficient? It's all about consolidation of media. Pretty much anything with UPnP servers shows up as a media source; one single app for music, video and photo sharing from arbitrary sources on the local net.

Also, it's got a social networking aspect to it, so you can see what your friends are watching and get suggestions. Pretty powerful stuff when combined with Hulu's back catalog of old TV that you missed.

Man, I was so close to dropping cable altogether and using Hulu instead. I may still once we see how this shakes out. Hulu always seemed too good to be true. I have yet to really grok their business model... do they have one?
posted by butterstick at 11:26 AM on February 19, 2009


The funny/sad thing is that I can get all that stuff over a torrent, without any ads. But I'm much less likely to try new stuff going that route. So the content monopolists lose on both ends.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:28 AM on February 19, 2009


Even without boxee a mac mini connected to a Sony Bravio is all you need.

One, it's bravia, not bravio, and two, why would you buy Sony anything?
posted by delmoi at 11:30 AM on February 19, 2009


The Boxee application is one to pay attention to. It's a desktop OSX application that sort of feels like a web application. It's very good at cataloging your media (Video, Pictures, Music) and allows you to view it centrally in a nice interface that sorta feels like Tivo. The nice thing is it just works- as long as your files have decent metadata.

For example if you drop 12 movie files for season 1 of "Favorite show" into your movie folder, it will place this in your "Television" section and then presents the thumbnails for each episode in a small gallery (which you can browse with a remote.) It will also go pull the synopsis of each episode for you, show you the cast list, etc.

It's a true media center in that it doesn't really differentiate between your local system (mp3's, movie files) and the internet (Hulu was probably the best example but you can stream many other sources of online video, netflix, some cbs, etc).

I'm actually digging it for the audio, I was pleasantly surprised to see that you could pull in all sorts of internet radio (ala Itunes radio).

So it puts it all these disparate elements together into a nice, unified package. I'm not entirely sold on the "social" part but I could see how some might like it.
posted by jeremias at 11:48 AM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is that insufficient? It's all about consolidation of media.

I'll give it a shot, for sure. Currently I have a Mac Pro hooked up via HDMI to a Bravia. This replaced a Mac Mini that couldn't handle playing H.264. I currently control it with a bluetooth keyboard and mouse from the couch. VLC plays everything I throw at it.
posted by odinsdream at 11:54 AM on February 19, 2009


One, it's bravia, not bravio, and two, why would you buy Sony anything?

In their defense, I got an insanely great deal on a Sony display because it didn't include a tuner. The store just couldn't get people to buy it, even though pretty much everyone has transitioned back to cable boxes with the crazy state of "high definition" cable. Just under a year after using it the screen started flickering out randomly. Even though I didn't pay even half of what it was worth retail, I did get the normal manufacturer 1-year warranty, so I filed a claim online and got a call back the next day. The lady was very apologetic about the fact that they no longer made that particular model, and asked if I would accept a nearly-equivalent model.

Nearly-equivalent was for one 2" wider, with a built-in HD tuner, four HDMI inputs, optical audio in/out, vga, dvi...etc. "Yes, great. Thanks!"

It was delivered three days later in an enormous box with a pre-paid label to send the broken display back, no questions asked. Surprisingly amazing customer service, in my opinion.
posted by odinsdream at 12:01 PM on February 19, 2009


I just wish there were a stupidly simple box I could buy that had the hardware all built in and ready to go so I could build an XBMC box capable of 1080p.

I'm with you there. I love my Xbox with XBMC. I am sad that it can't do 720p.

I tried using my netbook with XBMC, since it was a cheap simple box, but it can't handle 720p either, which is just depressing.
posted by smackfu at 12:05 PM on February 19, 2009


To be honest, I tried Boxee and didn't take to it. I've got my mac mini hooked up to a - yes - Bravia, and for me, it's easier to just sit down in front of the tv with a keyboard on my lap and find what I want to watch through a browser. But my tv room is a mess, so no one minds a keyboard in the middle of the floor. And it's a pain to get up and hit the space bar to pause the video if one of my children has the gall to interrupt mommy's stories.

But I did get rid of cable last month in favor of internet streams, itunes, and a resolution to watch less tv. So I suppose I've done just what NBC and its affiliates didn't want me to do. I'm interested in this story less as a defense of Boxee and more as a preview of a larger struggle between traditional media and new technology, where a viable (and desired) distribution method gets squashed because it threatens old business models. Again.
posted by bibliowench at 12:14 PM on February 19, 2009


Apple TV with Boxee here. No cable, satellite, or even rabbit ears.

I'm gonna miss this.
posted by sourwookie at 12:17 PM on February 19, 2009


Will this affect the XBMC plug-in? That one also blocks the ads.

It's too bad projects get smacked down when they're legit, but can do anything when they're not. It's the difference between "Hulu blocked us technically, but we work around it" vs "Hulu had their lawyers send us a letter forbidding access".
posted by smackfu at 12:26 PM on February 19, 2009


Note that wasteland's link is funny as hell and very very NSFW; if the Encyclopedia Dramatica link were not full of nude /b/ shout-outs, I'd have FPP'd Boxxy long ago.
posted by orthogonality at 12:36 PM on February 19, 2009


I really don't see the motive on the Content Provider (CP) side in this. This decision doesn't stop anyone from watching Hulu on their TV; if you had a machine hooked up to your tv which can run Boxee, it certainly can run a browser. It just isn't integrated into the rest of Boxee. So maybe you get the same number of eyeballs, but most likely not.

CP's now forfeit 2 interesting types of market research that Boxee provided. Boxee could've applied their social networking data to their ratings reports, as well as cross referencing the other types of media presented in boxee. CP's could've actually seen data on whether or not people listen to albums by artists who are featured in the soundtracks of their TV shows.

I mean, for these empires that conglomerate all kinds of media, I would've thought they'd look at this as a nice cohesive source of usage data. Unsuprising and yet still shockingly shortsighted.
posted by butterstick at 12:50 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I would also like to make a Boxxxy/Boxee joke, but it appears those were all made together about three hours ago. Please advise.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:22 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I just wish there were a stupidly simple box I could buy that had the hardware all built in and ready to go so I could build an XBMC box capable of 1080p.

You may want to check out that EEE Box I linked upthread. I haven't actually got my hands dirty with one yet, but the reviews all indicate that it can play 1080p pretty effortlessly (though it's underpowered for actually recording TV, so if you want that, this probably won't cut it.)

They say it's going to run about $300 or so, and for a toaster that can stream video from my file server and play youtube, trailers, hulu, etc. at full resolution, that seems like a fair price-point.
posted by quin at 1:26 PM on February 19, 2009


This decision doesn't stop anyone from watching Hulu on their TV; if you had a machine hooked up to your tv which can run Boxee, it certainly can run a browser.

I really feel like this was completely directed towards the Apple TV crowd. But that's really, really weird.
posted by fusinski at 1:28 PM on February 19, 2009


If I had to guess, and this is just a guess, I'd say that Hulu's content providers (and probably Hulu themselves) can't track the video and/or ad-watching the way they'd like through Boxxee. I don't know why that would be, but that would be the only thing about this that I can think of that would bother either party.
posted by shmegegge at 1:32 PM on February 19, 2009


Oh, to me, the motive is obvious: control. It's an new variant of the old deep-linking controversy. Hulu is owned by Fox and NBC, and they want to push their flash advertising for Miss March and other shows on you while collecting data from your browsing habits.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:41 PM on February 19, 2009


Are they going to prevent Hulu from playing of Firefox next? Because that's how I watch Hulu content on my TV. Turns out I can do that in Linux, on a Mac, or on a PC. And sometimes it's in HD.

What's the issue here again? That a superfluous app will be crippled from doing what you can do just as easily from your browser?
posted by jabberjaw at 1:45 PM on February 19, 2009


jabberjaw: What's the issue here again? That a superfluous app will be crippled from doing what you can do just as easily from your browser?

Well, it's a conflict that goes back to the early days of the internet. Do we have a user-centered internet in which the audience can use any software of his or her choice to access the content? Or do we have a provider-centered internet in which the people who create content can dictate the experience of the end user?

As with the prior iterations of the browser wars(*), the people trying to lock end-users into a specific platform depend on the fact that most people don't care as long as they are not locked out entirely.

(*) Still happening with WebKit and Opera, although less and less often.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:35 PM on February 19, 2009


Yes, what a silly thing for a Firefox user to say. That was the "superflous app" a few years ago, since who would need anything other than IE.
posted by smackfu at 2:43 PM on February 19, 2009


Blech. Hulu plugin is now broken for XBMC. There are other ways...
posted by Pastabagel at 2:45 PM on February 19, 2009


The net net of this is almost undoubtedly going to be going from having Hulu support "baked in" to Boxee to having it be an unofficial plugin provided by someone else -- in much the same manner as it is in XBMC.

The blame has been layed on the content providers, but I've got to believe the real heat is coming from local affiliates and cable companies. For the content providers (who own Hulu, after all), it's just more eyeballs on the ads (= higher potential ad revenue), but if the idea of getting disintermediated by other ways of getting that program on a TV isn't keeping the local affiliates and cable companies up nights, then they just aren't paying attention.

The cable companies (those that survive) are eventually going to wake up and realize they're now in the bandwidth business, but the local network affiliates are probably the next RIAA/MPAA -- middlemen taking a cut of a media-to-consumer transaction that is rapidly ceasing to need them.

Re: Boxee -- the shiny interface is the point, of course. There's a vast amount of difference between an interface that works well with a few remote buttons at 10 feet versus one that works well with a keyboard and mouse on the desktop. Boxee is just yet another (fairly decent) fork of XBMC, with a nice remote interface and media library manager. If it's not to your taste, then there is real XBMC, plus a number of other (often OS specific) forks such as Plex on OS X, Media Portal on Windows, etc.
posted by nonliteral at 2:52 PM on February 19, 2009


One, it's bravia, not bravio, and two, why would you buy Sony anything?
posted by delmoi at 1:30 PM on February 19


cuz their Bravio line is awesome.
posted by plexi at 3:05 PM on February 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


To anyone using Boxee: How is this experience better or different than simply having a TV as your computer display and playing files, DVDs, and streaming video directly?

From what I've seen, Boxee is like an enhanced version of Apple's Front Row in that it allows for things that Front Row can't do—such as:

- playing video files that Front Row (iTunes) can't play (such as AVI files)
- watching streaming content (Comedy Central (Colbert/DailyShow), the "Play Now" streaming content for NetFlix subscribers, as well as ABC, CBS, CNN, YouTube, and others)
- the ability to download subtitles for the video you're watching

Unlike something like VLC, Boxee lets you navigate to new files/shows using your Apple remote, instead of having to get up after every video ends to open the next file you want to watch. You can just put your computer on top of the DVD player and do all the surfing from the couch.

posted by blueberry at 3:56 PM on February 19, 2009


I would also like to make a Boxxxy/Boxee joke, but it appears those were all made together about three hours ago. Please advise.
posted by SpiffyRob at 1:22 PM on February 19 [+] [!]


The comment above yours talks about CP. Have fun.
posted by amuseDetachment at 3:59 PM on February 19, 2009


I've worked with (albeit in a very small capacity) for large media companies, their bureaucracies are huge, please never underestimate the stupidity of a large bureaucracy. Here's what probably happened:

Joe from Mid-Atlantic Sales: Hey, this Boxee thing, it plays our content over AppleTV.
Craig from Accounting: AppleTV? Boxee? This does not sound like something in our master agreements, this is not Safari or Internet Explorer!
Sally the Engineer: Well see, the great thing about internetworking protocols is the flexibility it provides in delivery your ...
Joe: EMERGENCY STAFF MEETING!

The thing about these companies is that they love control. The Internet, almost by definition, is the opposite of control. Boxee is not control. They probably sat around and talked about all the different ways Boxee could kill their revenue model, how it was way outside what they expected. And you know what, they are probably right. Everyone at the high level expected this to work on laptops, single session viewing. They sold this to advertisers, to their own executive management team. Boxee though, that's multiple people gathering around, in a distribution platform they didn't intend. To you and me it makes sense, but suddenly you have a very expensive agreement between two large companies falling apart because they sold advertisers on Hulu being some guy in a cubicle, and if they knew it would work with a television set, well they'd charge more. And they definitely don't want to set a precedent of charging advertisers less.

To me, this completely makes sense, and it will continue to happen as long as you have an outdated way of generating revenue for this content, which was developed when the only way to get this content was from a broadcast tower in your local geographic region.

PS SNAZBd + RSS + Plex = No media companies invovled.

PPS I still pay for cable, but Time Warner's $50 provided DVR really is only good for holding a week of HD programming, not to mention how annoying it is 45 minutes and boom it just stopped recording.
posted by geoff. at 4:58 PM on February 19, 2009 [5 favorites]


I skimmed, but oddly, I didn't see anyone mention that the poster is not actually correct. The beta is out for Windows. I've tried it. It doesn't add any value for me, but I could see it in a mediacenter PC context, I guess.

For my part, I think they've made some questionable UI decisions.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:00 PM on February 19, 2009


> Yes, what a silly thing for a Firefox user to say. That was the "superflous app" a few years ago, since who would need anything other than IE.

I almost get what you are saying, but I think the analogy is broken. Are you saying that Boxee is somehow synonymous with Firefox? Because I'm pretty sure they don't have the same functionality. Are you saying that this sucks because people prefer to use Boxee over Firefox to watch Hulu? I understand that.

But seriously, it's not that difficult to watch Hulu on your browser. You don't have to jump through any hoops; you don't have to pay any fees; you just point your browser to hulu.com, find a tv show or movie, and hit 'play.'

So, basically people just want to replace one incredibly easy-to-use and highly functional app for another.

Hulu works fine the way it was intended. Sorry if Boxee functionality is lost, but when networks offer their content to you for free, shouldn't they have a say in how you receive it?
posted by jabberjaw at 6:12 PM on February 19, 2009


So, basically people just want to replace one incredibly easy-to-use and highly functional app for another.

This is where we disagree. When you're sitting on the couch with a remote in your hand, boxee or xbmc beats the crap out of trying to use a web browser.
posted by smackfu at 7:27 PM on February 19, 2009


I skimmed, but oddly, I didn't see anyone mention that the poster is not actually correct. The beta is out for Windows.

My bad. I knew a beta version was available by invitation, but I cut that part out when I was trying to condense the post.
posted by bibliowench at 7:46 PM on February 19, 2009


Boxey
posted by cowbellemoo at 7:48 PM on February 19, 2009


I lurve my now dated install of XBMC sooooo much. The core functionality is all the writing on the wall anyone should need.

Hulu will either wise up or it will lose to a smarter venture thats more interested in pleasing its customers who want to cleanly integrate new media and old and less interested in being the thralls of the dinosaurs to obtain "prime" content (as defined by the old criteria, of course, centered around a model of passive mass media consumption and quantified by its ability to sell.)

I'd take a competitor to Hulu that lacked some of the big name, mass media content controlled by the more jealous members of the big conglomerates but didn't interfere with delivery of whatever content it offers, and just wait out the dinosaurs stupidity. It's not like you can't get the content via p2p and watch it by the next day.

Considering that time-shifting is now more or less the norm even when consuming broadcast content (and look how the DVR drama played out: the same cycle of industry skepticism--->resistance--->adoption---->promotion with the foot-draggers losing out) if Hulu doesn't want to give me the content I'm looking for through the appliance I want to use and allow me to control the viewing experience, I'll either get it from somewhere else or decide I don't care.

CONTENT PRODUCERS: YOU CAN NO LONGER FORCE ME TO VIEW ADVERTISING WITHOUT ENTIRELY REDUCING YOUR CONTENT TO ADVERTISING OR ELEVATING YOUR ADVERTISING TO CONENT (both of which people are beginning to catch on to and peremptorily reject, at least in their most blatant forms associated with the shifting media landscape.) If you do, I'll just ignore you as a source, and will get the content elsewhere or decide its not worth the effort.

And sooner or later you'll be bought out by some upstart company that does understand, after you get done driving down your value and alienating customers while wondering where your business model went so terribly wrong.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:53 PM on February 19, 2009



*make that "CONTENT PROVIDERS," sorry.

posted by snuffleupagus at 7:53 PM on February 19, 2009


I forgot to factor in laziness. In that case, I prefer Boxee too.
posted by jabberjaw at 9:38 PM on February 19, 2009


I can remember a time, around '98-99, when the labels were just beginning to worry about MP3s and people laughed because "who's gonna download entire album's worth of MP3s, convert them to CDs, burn them, and then distribute them to their friends?" considering CD burners were only about 2-3x speed at the time and still relatively expensive (around $3 per CD and at least $200-300 for the burner). Then Metallica hopped up on their high horse and said "This Napster thing is getting outta control" and we all laughed because it was only the uber-geeks that knew about Napster until Metallica told the whole fucking world about it, and then the whole world was like "wait... free music? where?".

Fast forward 10 years and we've practically moved beyond any kind of physical media. When was the last time you burned a CD? Or, hell, even a DVD? Does anyone care if they can burn a Blu-Ray disc?

And so it has come to pass that more and more people are getting broadband connections and larger storage mediums coupled with better audio &video compression -- so a full DVD-quality movie file fits in the space of about 1-2 gigs -- and MP3s are pretty much the status quo, while the movie and tv people are worried they'll be pushed aside like the record companies seem to have been.

What excites me about all of this is to see where it goes. I envision a time when we'll just pay a single "entertainment bill" every month, say $50, and whatever we consume is split amongst the providers of that which we're enjoying. $0.02 goes to U2 for listening to their latest half-assed single. $1.50 goes to NBC for watching The Office and 30 Rock. $0.40 goes to NYTimes for those articles you read throughout the month. Whatever it is you're consuming, someone gets their cut.

That seems to be the only way these companies can even stay afloat. Every attempt to lock down access just creates more angry consumers who seek out easier, cheaper, (often lower-quality) ways to get the entertainment they want. Ironically, it often takes more time to get the content one wants than if one had just gone the legal / "approved" route. If time is money, you're often spending more on getting your content through BitTorrent, et al. than you would through Hulu / Netflix. But, you do it because you can do with the content whatever you wish -- put it on your iPod, Boxee, MythTV, XBMC, VLC, whatever.

Personally, I'd be all for the "entertainment bill" - I'd like to see the content makers (not the "providers", they can go fuck themselves) get paid for their work. I'd be happy to pay Steve Carell & Ricky Gervais for The Office, but NBC is the shady middleman of a bygone era as far as I'm concerned.

*phew* that was quite a novel. But, I'm curious what the rest of you think about these things (especially in light of recent events).
posted by revmitcz at 11:31 PM on February 19, 2009


Check out Elisa.

It's free media centre I've been using. Pretty light weight and works really well.

People are adding more and more plug ins as the days go by.
posted by mooreeasyvibe at 2:19 AM on February 20, 2009


This is where we disagree. When you're sitting on the couch with a remote in your hand, boxee or xbmc beats the crap out of trying to use a web browser.
posted by smackfu at 9:27 PM on February 19


Just get a bluetooth keyboard/mouse.
posted by plexi at 7:35 AM on February 20, 2009


What excites me about all of this is to see where it goes. I envision a time when we'll just pay a single "entertainment bill" every month, say $50, and whatever we consume is split amongst the providers of that which we're enjoying. $0.02 goes to U2 for listening to their latest half-assed single. $1.50 goes to NBC for watching The Office and 30 Rock. $0.40 goes to NYTimes for those articles you read throughout the month. Whatever it is you're consuming, someone gets their cut.

EPIC HANDWAVE. Not that I don't think that vision is groovy, but that is the essence of the problem; tracking who uses what content and owes which provider. If this was even remotely possible we wouldn't be determined to track usage in order to re-sell the viewership as ad revenue. Providers could just cut out the middle man and let the markets decide what to charge for their content. Users win when they don't have to watch ads, and then lose as prices rise for less popular content.

This is exactly what iTMS does. You use stuff, you get a bill for it. I would gladly participate in a similar model via Hulu if there was enough competition in the system to drive prices in any manner that wasn't simply dictated by the providers. iTMS is guilty of this as well and is only now getting outside competition from Amazon. Competition within the delivery/payment model (store) would be much better. What you really want is a magical media umbrella that allows all providers to compete on their prices with each other, from within the same store.

I agree this would be awesome, but it needs to be implemented in an ownerless way. Imagine if iTMS scaled up to support something like this where demand dictated price. There would be nothing to keep Apple from tacking on usage fees for their overhead, and nor should there be. So now do you not only need to solve the extant problems of digital distribution and payment, but you also need to liberate the means of that distribution. This would be an astounding feat in and of itself, especially considering nobody who has the means to do this is motivated (yet) to do so. Consumers should build this and dictate participation terms to providers.
posted by butterstick at 8:31 AM on February 20, 2009


XBMC and its forks work well on SDTVs.

Even plain old analog VGA output is more or less unreadable at 480i from the couch across the room.

And the user experience with a BT keyboard and mouse and standard media PC using a TV as its display is much clunkier.

We're used to the affordances of the television and remote control for consuming certain kinds of media. The very architecture of our homes acknowledges this. XBMC and its ilk marry new content to that familiar affordance beautifully, and it's pretty clear that the only barrier to individuals' ability to personally integrate of mass media and net media is an artificial one, maintained by the business interests that know this change, once realized on a wide scale, will obsolete whatever is left of their traditional business model before they can gin up a new one (their eyes are on the recording industry here.)

The first companies that stop trying to fight the hypo and operate with their minds on tomorrow rather than yesterday stand to make a pile.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:38 AM on February 20, 2009


What is the prominent login or register panel on the site all about? The home page consists of little else. When you run boxee is it tied to your account on their servers in some way? If so, what sort of information does it exchange with their servers, and what are their plans for using it?
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:52 AM on February 20, 2009


Just get a bluetooth keyboard/mouse.

I did (incidentally, don't by this one, it's crap), and I'd still prefer boxee or similar. The problem is that web browsers really don't work well at 4-6 m distance even on a 42" screen. You really want large text and big buttons. Using a mouse (or trackball or touchpad) on the couch pretty much sucks, I can tell you. Give me a simplified interface with discrete buttons any day of the week.
posted by bonehead at 10:35 AM on February 20, 2009


When you run boxee is it tied to your account on their servers in some way?

Yep. It does for video pretty much what last.fm does for music. In fact, it can, with your permission, merge in your last.fm data as well.
posted by bonehead at 10:38 AM on February 20, 2009


bonehead, I didn't know about that LastFM integration. Thanks for the heads up.
posted by butterstick at 11:04 AM on February 20, 2009


Ironically, it often takes more time to get the content one wants than if one had just gone the legal / "approved" route. If time is money, you're often spending more on getting your content through BitTorrent, et al. than you would through Hulu / Netflix.

Are you counting the actual time it takes to download, or just the time it takes to find and start the download? If the latter, I'm not sure I can agree.

For example, to download the latest Lost, I go to piratebay, go to the TV show category, click Lost, scroll down to the current date section, right-click copy the Download link icon, then wget that into a terminal window. The torrent file is automatically picked up by the bittorrent client and begins downloading. After a few hours I have the show.

What's great about this is that I can initiate this from anywhere in the world. I've even done it from a gas station over a blackberry while waiting for the pump to finish. I would say it takes no more than a minute to start this up.

...and that's the hard way to do it. Apparently I'm way behind the times and people are subscribing to torrent feeds with RSS and completely skipping this human step I perform, and they just get the show as soon as it's posted.
posted by odinsdream at 11:09 AM on February 20, 2009


Well there is already a patch out for XBMC that works around this problem, and apparently it can be installed in boxee. Perhaps a bit buggy for the moment, but it does arrive on practically the same day as the blockade. Oh yeah - this version edits out the commercials.
posted by thetruthisjustalie at 1:14 PM on February 20, 2009 [1 favorite]


odinsdream: A few hours? Either BitTorrent sucks even more than I thought or your Internet connection is slooowww.

I can download a Blu-Ray rip in less than 2 hours. :p

A 40whatever minute network show takes 10-15 minutes.

Although, honestly, if you are in the US, there's little to no reason to bother to download network TV. With a decent antenna (less than $40 if you're within 40 miles or so of your local affiliate's broadcast tower..more if you have to put up an outdoor antenna) you can get the stuff for free at the time it is broadcast, rather than an hour or six after it ends and someone has had time to strip the commercials and re-encode it in x264.
posted by wierdo at 7:58 PM on February 22, 2009


I really don't see the motive on the Content Provider (CP) side in this. This decision doesn't stop anyone from watching Hulu on their TV;

When have these people ever acted rationally?
posted by delmoi at 9:17 AM on February 23, 2009


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