Don't get too accustomed to watching free streaming television shows on the Web: Hollywood is moving in and wresting control of content from popular online channels like Hulu.
Citing pressure from content providers (read: Hollywood suits), Hulu has withdrawn its content from both the Boxee application and CBS's TV.com. When pulling away from TV.com, Hulu stated it had "contractual" obligations that forced its hand, and then asked the media to respect confidentiality. CBS had no comment.
Hulu gravely acknowledged its decision to pull its content off of Boxee's application in a blog posting that said the decision "has weighed heavily on the Hulu team, and we know it will weigh even more so on Boxee users." Boxee responded in its own blog, optimistic about future negotiations between content providers, Hulu, and Boxee.
Now that TV.com is barren of Hulu content and--starting Friday--Hulu will no longer be accessible via Boxee, the question is: What is Hollywood trying to do? First it gives the public a massive sack of programming and claims it's for free. Then, seemingly out of the blue, contractual obligations appear and the content ceases to exist.
It's notable that this massive retreat of troops comes amidst The Pirate Bay trial centering on content "theft." Content providers are trying to have it all--they say they want to make available, at their discretion, free programming for the public. On the other hand, they seem to want to keep similar, or even the same, programming away from the public.
Could this lead to a surge in piracy? The savvy public knows what it wants and where to find it, no matter how many blockades stand in the way. We can just hope that the continuing negotiations Boxee discusses in its blog post happen soon.