Content HTPC

When is not stealing stealing? When you’re Boxee streaming NBC content, that’s when

boxee jeff zucker Along with Windows Media Center, I also use Boxee on my HTPC to stream great content from the internet.  There’s a good bit of it out there and Boxee allows me to feed it to my TV.  The application does this untouched mind you.  Boxee doesn’t remove ads, doesn’t place their own ads over the content or edit the content itself in anyway.

Yet, according to Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC, Boxee is allowing me to steal Hulu content.  That’s right.  Even though I watch Hulu on my TV the same way you do on your monitor (IE: with ads in place and in a browser) apparently, NBC considers that stealing their content.

Ignoring the fact that Zucker just called the founders and owners of Boxee thieves, this entire issue comes down to one thing:  control.  NBC still thinks that you should watch their content on their time, and where they want you to.  Yet again, content producers simply don’t get it.  Never mind that Boxee only has somewhere in the neighborhood of 1 million users, they want those 1 million users doing things their way.  (I don’t say only as though it’s small.  But in comparison to the number of people still getting the content through cable, satellite or OTA, it is.)

We’re talking about a company that quite literally gives their content away for free!!  Anyone in the US, depending on exact location, can put up an antenna and watch NBC all day long without paying a thing.  Just because I use a different delivery method doesn’t make me, you or other Boxee users thieves.  It wouldn’t make us thieves to use ANY service provided if, again, the stream is left intact with ads and all.

Where does this leave streaming television?  Basically, in the hands of people who don’t understand that the world is changing.  New revenue models need to be explored and it seems as though the old guard isn’t willing to accept that.

In Boxee’s response to Mr. Zucker’s rambling we find the following:

There are now close to a million people using Boxee. When they watch shows from Hulu they are watching the ads and generate real revenues to NBC. 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.

Why would we pay a fee?  The way Boxee works now is not illegal.  It’s the exact same way most users access the content, in it’s entirety, WITH ADS!  If NBC wants to start charging for content then they need to do so across the board.  Encrypt the OTA broadcasts and charge everyone the same amount.  Maybe this is the solution to the revenue issue, but again, it needs to be applied in a fair and equal manner.  Charging someone for the way they access your content makes no sense when they’re seeing the same thing everyone else is.  No special features, no extra content.  And, it probably costs less.

At the end of the day, this expands well beyond NBC, Hulu and Boxee.  Content producers need to learn that consumers, especially those tech savvy enough to use an app like Boxee, aren’t going to kowtow to them forever.  In the last 30 to 40 years, the opportunities to make money have multiplied in an unbelievable way.  Whether we talk about movies leaving the theater on the VHS tape or TV shows being sold by the season on DVD, there are more chances for revenue now than ever before.  The point here is that instead of worrying about the one million or so Boxee users, maybe NBC should focus on producing quality content.  Guess how many of their shows were in the top 25 the week ending January 31st:  Two.  Yeah, two.

Maybe Mr. Zucker feels that he needs every viewer he can get and blocking people from viewing the content (yes, I’ll repeat it) WITH ADS is the way to get more.

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About the author

Adam Thursby

Adam Thursby is the founder and creator of The Digital Media Zone.