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Boxee responds to NBC

NBC Universal chief executive Jeff Zucker said in a House subcommittee hearing Thursday that Hulu blocked online video startup Boxee from getting content because the company was "illegally" accessing Hulu's shows.

Boxee chief executive Avner Ronen responded in a blog: not true.

I’d like to set the record straight regarding Boxee’s access to Hulu. Boxee uses a web browser to access Hulu’s content – just like Firefox or Internet Explorer. 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.

Above, Mr. Zucker says the original decision was made by Hulu’s management. That is correct, but as Hulu chief executive Jason Kilar wrote in his post, the request came from NBC. “Our content providers requested that we turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we are respecting their wishes.”

"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.

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.

The exchange is significant because one of the concerns raised by online startups and consumer groups about the Comcast-NBCU merger is that the combined company may have the power to withhold content from competing online video distributors.

Lawmakers grilled Comcast and NBC Universal on this question, and the executives said they would continue to make NBC content available online. They did not, however, say how they would set terms of such content agreements.

By Cecilia Kang  |  February 4, 2010; 5:26 PM ET
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