The Latest Fans on the Boxee Bandwagon: The United States Congress
4 February 2010 by Rob Spectre

We have some new members of the Boxee community who divulged their fandom in the most unlikely of settings: a Congressional hearing.  Testifying before a House inquiry about the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal merger, NBC chief Jeff Zucker was asked a question about the ongoing Boxee / Hulu controversy by Representative Rick Boucher (D-VA):

Mr. Boucher: The second key question that I have is this: what about Boxee?  Did Hulu block the Boxee users from access to the Hulu programs?

Mr. Zucker: This was a decision made by the Hulu management, uh, to, uh… What Boxee was doing was illegally taking the content that was on Hulu without any business deal.  And, you know, all… We have several distributors, actually many distributors of the Hulu content that we have legal distribution deals with.  So we don’t preclude distribution deals; what we preclude is those that illegally take that content.

Mr. Boucher: Would you be open to negotiations with Boxee or whatever it was?

Mr. Zucker: We have always said that we are open to negotiations.

Did a Congressman just tell Hulu to play nice with Boxee?

Here’s the video:

Update: Boxee CEO Avner Ronen just posted a response to Jeff Zucker’s testimony arguing the accuracy of Zucker’s claim.

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.

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.

Does this mean the Hulu experience on Boxee is about to get better? Who knows, but the incident further highlights Boxee’s growing disruption in the IPTV space, a Wild West environment that is turning television on it’s head.

See Avner’s response in its entirety here.

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