Boxee CEO Avner Ronen's blog post offers some hints at how the merger could affect the environment for web TV startups.Capitol Hill is abuzz as Comcast and NBC Universal defend their merger in an antitrust investigation before the Senate Judiciary Committee. While a number of interest groups are commenting on the potential acquisition,
In March 2009, NBC's Hulu requested that Boxee remove all embedded video content. While fans were certainly disappointed, Boxee found a simple workaround in the form of a Hulu plug-in. In today's hearing with the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, NBC President Jeff Zucker justifies that initial removal of Hulu from Boxee by calling the web tv startup's practices "illegal".
In response, Boxee CEO Ronen writes, "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... 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."
Avner then points to his plans for a payment program suggesting that Boxee users might be willing to pay Hulu for subscription content. While this sort of deal might prove lucrative for Boxee, the merger itself may create an extremely restrictive environment for those startups looking to break into the web tv and social tv space. If Boxee is considered "illegal" then what other access will be denied?
With NBC Universal representing a large portion of entertainment content and Comcast controlling the flow of that content to tv and the Web, what innovations might be pummeled in the wake of a merger?