Peter Kafka

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Hulu Brushes Off Boxee, and Boxee Comes Back for More

fightJust in case anyone was wondering: Hulu, the Web video service that lets you watch Fox and NBC shows on your computer, really doesn’t want you to plug that computer into your TV.

And Boxee, a start-up that makes it easy for you to plug your computer into your TV so you can watch Web video, doesn’t care.

Got it?

Here’s where we are: Early this morning, Boxee rolled out a workaround that let Boxee users watch Hulu shows again, which they haven’t been able to do since last month when Hulu pulled its shows off Boxee’s browser. Late this afternoon, Hulu squelched that workaround.

And as of now (8:51 p.m. EST), Boxee CEO Avner Ronen tells me, his team has made another series of tweaks that will let you watch Hulu shows on Boxee yet again. Ronen says he’s not quite sure about the technical details, but argues that his service has every right to let you watch Hulu on your television, since Hulu is a free Web service that anyone (in the U.S.) can access.

But he is sorry that he’s now playing cat-and-mouse with Hulu, a joint venture between GE’s (GE) NBC and News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox. “It’s not a very productive way to spend our time,” Ronen says. (News Corp is the owner of Dow Jones, which owns this Web site.)

Confused? There’s more background here and here. But the important takeaway is that Hulu, or more accurately, Hulu’s TV progammer owners, are signaling to their partners–the big cable companies–that they’re willing to pull back on Web access to their shows. And Boxee, which has $4 million in financing from Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital, is signaling that it’s willing to dig in and fight.

[Image credit: Library of Congress via Flickr]


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”