Boxee CEO maintains someone is lying about Hulu incident

As the NBCU-Comcast deal continues to be examined in minute detail on Capitol Hill, media-center app company Boxee was pulled into the center ring when ringmaster, er, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet attempted to get to the bottom of who pulled the plug on Boxee using Hulu's feed lat year.

At the time, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar pointed the finger at content partners, saying, they "requested that we turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we are respecting their wishes. While we stubbornly believe in this brave new world of media convergence-bumps and all--we are also steadfast in our belief that the best way to achieve our ambitious, never-ending mission of making media easier for users is to work hand in hand with content owners. Without their content, none of what Hulu does would be possible. "

Boucher yesterday asked Zucker, "What about Boxee? Did Hulu block the Boxee users from access to the Hulu programs."

NBC President and CEO Jeff Zucker said it was Hulu's decision, not the content owners' that led to the takedown.

"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," Zucker said. "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."

"Would you have negotiations with Boxee upon request?" asked Boucher.

Replied Zucker, "We have always said that we're open to negotiations."

Not according to Boxee CEO Avner Ronen, who wrote in a blog yesterday that now that Zucker had opened the door, Boxee would be knocking.

"Boxee uses a web browser to access Hulu's content--just like Firefox or Internet Explorer," he wrote. "Boxee users click on a link to Hulu's website and the video within that page plays. We don't "take" the video. We don't copy it. We don't put ads on top of it. The video and the ads play like they do on other browsers or on Hulu Desktop. And it certainly is legal to do so.

"We hope we will be able to work with NBC and offer more content and value to Boxee users as we believe a good number of our users will also be willing to pay one-time or subscription fees to access NBC's content," he continued. "Mr. Zucker says they always said they are open to negotiations. That has not been our experience, but at this point, we will take Mr. Zucker's offer at face value and will contact him. We are eager to work with both Comcast and NBCU to bring more content on more devices to our users. We believe the Internet represents a great opportunity for content owners and we hope that current artificial barriers put on distribution over the Internet will be taken down."

For more:
- see this Media Memo blog
- see this Boxee blog

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