Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

NBC Keeps Part of the Hulu/Boxee Story a Secret

Remember the kerfuffle when Hulu blocked Boxee last year? And remember the slightly smaller kerfuffle when the issue resurfaced earlier this year, during a government inquiry into the Comcast-NBC Universal deal?

It’s not going away. In response to questioning from the Federal Communications Commission, NBC has described its version of the incident.

But the GE (GE) unit doesn’t want everyone to see what it has to say. At NBC’s request, a large chunk of its statement has been redacted.

See for yourself, courtesy of MediaBistro’s Alex Weprin, who has been going through NBC’s filing (click image to enlarge):

The text that NBC hasn’t blacked out is relatively straightforward, and it’s consistent with NBCU boss Jeff Zucker’s comments in February: Hulu blocked Boxee because it streamed Hulu’s content without using Hulu’s wrapper.

And those comments still appear to contradict Hulu CEO Jason Kilar’s original position, which is that he blocked Boxee because his “content providers requested” that he do it.

So what about the rest of NBC’s statement, which we can’t see? Got me.

The bigger picture here is that both Comcast (CMCSA) and NBCU need to convince Washington that their proposed merger won’t consolidate enormous power in the hands on one company. Which is of course exactly what the merger is supposed to do.

But one way to appease lawmakers may be some sort of “hands off Hulu” pledge, whereby Comcast promises to leave access to the site unfettered. Question: Is that what NBC’s partners–News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox, Disney’s (DIS) ABC and Providence Equity Partners–have in mind, too?

UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times’ excellent Joe Flint notes that NBC has also revealed Hulu’s plans to launch a subscription service. And not surprisingly, it has blacked out that stuff, too. (Luckily, you can read about the broad strokes here).


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work