Hulu, the online video joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp, has pulled its programming from TV.com, which CBS acquired when it bought CNET last year for $1.8 billion. CBS recently relaunched the TV.com site with a similar look and feel to Hulu. The development comes as Hulu also pulled its programmes from Boxee, an application which allows users to view online programming on their television. Meanwhile, cable companies are seeking to provide their own online subscription services.
Hulu simply said that it is exercising its “contractual rights with regards to our relationship with TV.com,” apparently as a result of the TV.com relaunch.
CBS responded by saying “CBS Interactive is well within its rights to stream Hulu video content on TV.com under its agreement with Hulu. We are evaluating our next steps at this time”.
Hulu is a joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp. It was launched with a two year exclusive right to distribute shows from NBC and Fox beyond their own web sites, both through its own portal and distributed through other sites, including TV.com.
CBS declined to join the venture that became Hulu and with the relaunch of TV.com in January is occupying similar territory. It has since seen a significant increase in traffic. It has always had more visitors than Hulu, but currently still has far fewer video viewers.
The development comes as Hulu has also required Boxee to drop support for its programming in its social media centre application. Boxee tried to persuade Hulu to allow them to retain programming from Hulu but agreed to remove it.
Jason Kilar, the chief executive of Hulu, noted “While we never had a formal relationship with Boxee, we are under no illusions about the likely Boxee user response from this move.” Indeed, the response was predictable outrage. He said that “Our content providers requested that we turn off access to our content via the Boxee product, and we are respecting their wishes.”
Cable companies Comcast and Time Warner are meanwhile looking at providing programming online to paying subscribers and have been in discussions with networks including NBC Universal and Fox. Whether they will pay the networks more for this is another matter. They argue that is an extension of the video on demand services they already offer.
For their part, programming providers and networks may feel that they can reach an audience directly online and sell their own advertising. However they will also be mindful of undermining the distribution businesses of cable and satellite operators that also bring them significant revenues.
It is worth remembering that online viewing is currently scarcely significant in terms of revenues compared to traditional forms of distribution.