Monday, March 22, 2010, 11:08 AM ET|Posted by Will RichmondNo sooner did I post "With New Kylo Browser Convergence is Another Step Closer" this morning, than I've come to understand that Hulu programs are now not accessible through the Kylo browser. Hulu worked completely fine for me yesterday, but now when I go to watch a program on Hulu, I'm getting the text message, "Unfortunately this video is not available on your platform. We apologize for any inconvenience." Huh, what's going on here? Is Hulu blocking Kylo users' access to its programs? I've asked Hulu for a comment.
If Hulu is indeed doing this, it's a PR fiasco in the making for the site. Blocking access to its content would mean that Hulu is putting itself on the wrong side of convergence and risking turning off its users (not to mention censoring as if this were China). The episode recalls February, 2009, when Hulu demanded that boxee turn off access to Hulu at the request of its content partners. That tempest highlighted the artificially made quagmire that Hulu's owners find themselves in - eager to have Hulu boost their programs' viewership, so long as it remains on the computer and not on the TV.
With Kylo, Hulu will once again be called upon to justify how it's making decisions. For example, if I'm using Kylo on my computer, how is watching Hulu content any different than if I were using IE, Firefox, Safari, etc? And if I choose to connect my computer to a TV screen, how is that any different than if I connected it to a large monitor? In short, this is a hairball for Hulu.
Update: Hillcrest Labs, the company behind the new Kylo browser, has confirmed that Hulu is indeed preventing its content from being shown. The statement from Hillcrest's CEO Dan Simpkins:
"We have confirmed with Hulu that they are preventing the Kylo browser from playing Hulu videos. Prior to our formal launch, Hulu videos would play within the Kylo browser. Like Internet Explorer, Firefox or Safari, the Kylo browser is simply a Web browser that enables consumers to visit any site on the Web. We have tremendous respect for Hulu, and we hope that a continued dialog might influence their thinking."
Meanwhile Hulu seems to be in a bunker. I haven't heard back from them, nor has anyone else it appears. I have confirmed from ABC (one of Hulu's owners) that it found out about Hulu's action when everyone else did, which means that ABC is not the instigator here. Much more on this story as it unfolds.
Update 2: Now Tuesday morning and still no word back from Hulu. Nobody else seems to have heard from them either. It looks like their PR strategy is avoidance. That's a bad move because going mum just means that story continues to live (just ask Tiger).
Hulu's decision to block Kylo users is all about preventing Hulu viewership from migrating to TVs, which would undermine broadcast network economics. That's because Hulu, with its light ad load, still hasn't been able to prove its business model. The problem for Hulu - and the networks - is bigger than Kylo though as the push toward convergence between online video delivery and TV is going to be relentless (lots more on this tomorrow). Hulu is facing an escalating "Whac-a-mole" problem which will only lead to huge user frustration and increasingly tortured justifications.
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