by Jason Fischer
I don’t understand why producers of copyrighted content have such a hard time comprehending their customer base. We’re not that difficult to fathom. We only really have a few, simple needs:
- We want to be able to get to desired content, whenever and however we want.
- We don’t want to pay through the nose for it.
- If you make it difficult for us, there are other ways for us to get what we want. Ways you don’t like, because it means you won’t get your cut.
It’s precisely because content producers don’t understand us that we have scenarios like this.
I really thought that everyone was coming closer together, though, producers and consumers, when I discovered a service called Hulu this summer. It just so happened that I found myself, for about six weeks, in a place with Internet access, but limited cable service. I began to fret when I realized that I would not be able to get my weekly Battlestar Galactica fix – right when the last season was beginning to air. Also, with the writers’ strike delaying everything, many of my other favorite programs were still running new episodes into June. I was going to miss the season finales for a handful of shows, which I had been watching religiously at home. I began to panic a little bit.
When I finally got my wits about me, I did a few Google searches and came across the Hulu website. I couldn’t believe what I had found – ad supported streaming of television content, on demand and all in one place. New shows and old shows were all available for me to watch, at my leisure, as long as I was willing to sit through a few 30-second spots for Lipton iced tea. I discovered old and new shows that I had missed, which I could now become a fan of. I watched the entire first season of NBC’s Life on Hulu, and I continue to watch new episodes to date – even though that show airs the same night and time as ABC’s Lost, which sits as my highest priority Season Pass on TiVo. It wasn’t perfect, but I thought it was a significant step in the right direction, a step towards me being able to watch whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, without having to pay any monetary access fee, beyond what I already pay for cable and Internet service.
One of the major drawbacks for the Hulu service was the fact that I could only access the content using a computer. At the time, this past summer, that wasn’t a problem. When I returned home, I went back to watching my 52” television and stopped using the Hulu service entirely, even though there were hours and hours of Arrested Development, The Practice, Babylon 5, and Hill Street Blues collecting virtual dust in my Hulu queue. I went back to watching my television content on TiVo, able to skip all advertising, but limited to shows which were currently airing. I began to lose hope for my dream of some day being able to watch whatever I wanted, whenever and however I wanted to watch it. Then came boxee, and I started feeling good again, believing that one day it would be possible.
Boxee is a piece of software that runs on my hacked Apple TV, which made the Hulu service available on my television. Again, it wasn’t perfect, but it was certainly good enough for me. Again, I was able to pick up old TV shows that I had missed. I was able to watch shows that conflicted with my wife’s higher priority Season Pass to Gossip Girl. Life was good. Then, in an inexplicable fit of ignorance, the content providers decided that I shouldn’t be able to watch whatever I wanted, whenever and however I wanted to watch it.
It was announced this week that Hulu will be pulling its boxee support. The creators of boxee have issued a statement describing their position. Here‘s another blogger’s well-put explanation of the situation. As of Friday, I have to go back to watching only what is currently being aired. If I miss an episode of something, if TiVo goofs and fails to record, if my wife’s addiction to GR∑∑K interferes with one of my recordings, what are my options?
- Buy another TiVo.
- Pay $1.99 on iTunes to buy an episode that I will watch only once.
- Wait a year for the DVD to come out.
- Violate current copyright laws, pirate the show I want using BitTorrent, upload it to my Apple TV’s hard drive, and enjoy.
Which one do you think most people would pick?