Remember the cat-and-mouse games Hulu played with browsers designed for big-screen TVs?
The site blocked Boxee and Hillcrest Labs’ Kylo from accessing videos, and then re-blocked them after both tried work-arounds to spoof Hulu (see Hulu Blocks Access to Internet-to-TV Software, Hillcrest Goes Big-Screen Surfing, Hillcrest Upgrades TV Browser To Fake Out Hulu and Hulu Blocks Hillcrest’s Browser Work-Around).
The reason: Hulu wanted to sell $7.99 monthly subscriptions to Hulu Plus, which provides video on multiple devices, including connected TVs, and because of cord-cutting fears — even though any ordinary PC hooked up to a TV can play the site’s free videos using most browsers (see Hulu Plus Notches 875,000 Subscribers).
Now, however, the Kylo browser (based on the Mozilla codebase) plays Hulu videos just fine. The Boxee player also played Hulu videos on my PC, but evidently the Boxee Box can’t play Hulu or Hulu Plus.
Did Hillcrest quietly put in another work-around? Did the parties work out a deal? Or does Hulu realize it’s too much effort to keep playing Whac-a-Mole?
According to Hillcrest, a compatibility setting in Kylo can make the browser appear like Firefox. “There is no change in relationship between Hulu and Hillcrest,” a company spokesman said. So Hulu either hasn’t bothered to try to block that feature, or is unable to. I’ve sent query to Hulu and will provide updates as necessary.
Note that this summer, Hillcrest refocused its go-to-market efforts entirely on OEMs, replacing the “Loop” pointer with the smaller and lighter “Scoop” — which it doesn’t intend to sell at retail (see Hillcrest ‘Scoop’ Pointer To Replace ‘Loop’). The free Kylo browser was part of the retail play.
Meanwhile, Hulu’s owners tried to sell the company, then took it off the block when they couldn’t get the price tag and/or the terms they wanted (see Hulu: Worthless or Priceless?).
Programming Note! Don’t miss the Multichannel News breakfast panel discussion at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2011 in Atlanta, Video’s Next Act: Setting the Multiscreen Stage, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, prior to the opening general session. Click here for more info: www.multichannel.com/SCTE2011.