Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Steve Levitan Gets His Wish: "Modern Family" Leaves Hulu (Briefly)

“Modern Family” creator Steve Levitan says he loves the Internet, but says he wants his show off the Web. Because the eyeballs it attracts don’t do him any good.

Wish granted! Temporarily.

Turns out, Levitan’s show has been off the free Web–Hulu, ABC.com and ABC’s free iPad app–for the past month or so. Hulu, which is co-owned by News Corp.’s (NWS) Fox, Disney’s (DIS) ABC, and GE’s (GE) NBC, explains that its streaming rights for the show expired on July 27. And that the show will be back this fall.

That seems a little weird, because you can still watch online episodes of most other big network shows that aired last year. But I’m told that while some ABC executives were actually in favor of taking Levitan at his word, “Modern’s Family”‘s temporary absence isn’t a punishment, but has to do with the release of the show’s first DVD set, due out later this month.

Which makes sense. Because even in 2010, Hollywood–in this case News Corp.’s Fox, which produces the show–still values analog dollars more than anything the Web can produce. So if the TV guys think there’s a chance that free Web shows cut into DVD sales….

And while these windows/channel conflicts aren’t going away anytime soon, they remain confusing.

For instance, you can still watch the last episode of “Lost” on Hulu, even though the DVDs of the last season went on sale a couple of weeks ago. But Hulu says the series finale  will disappear from its site on September 20. And that it won’t be showing seasons 1 to 5 after the end of 2010. Go figure.

But! You can still watch “Modern Family” on the Web, without breaking the law. All you need to do is wrangle a Hulu Plus invite, and you can watch it on your Web browser, or on your Apple (APPL) iPad or iPhone, for that matter. Is that worth $10 a month to you?

In the meantime, cheapskates will have to get by on free Web clips like this one:

And here’s a clip of Levitan explaining his beef with Web video, at our D8 conference in June:


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik