Hauling Hulu to HDTVs

Hulu may be fighting a losing
battle in trying to prevent the popular TV
content it distributes for free on the Web
from finding its way to television sets.

Last week, Hillcrest Labs released a new
version of its browser for big-screen HDTVs,
designed to circumvent measures Hulu has
taken to block its software from playing videos.
Hillcrest’s upgraded Kylo browser, which
is based on Mozilla’s Firefox open-source
code, includes a “compatibility mode” setting
that makes the software appear to Hulu as if it
were a regular PC-based Firefox 3.6 browser.

Hulu, a joint venture of News Corp., NBC
Universal and The Walt Disney Co., disabled
access to the initial Kylo release just hours after
the software’s official debut in March. It
has also prevented the Web-TV software from
startup Boxee from accessing video content,
arguing that Boxee violated the Hulu terms of
service or had been taking content “illegally.”

But other Web-to-TV services and products
are on their way — and it’s not clear
whether Hulu will be able to stop them.

Google TV, a project the search giant unveiled
earlier this month, is designed to let users
search across any Web site for content. In
demos, Google executives showed a Google
TV set-top returning results for Hulu.

Hulu declined to comment about whether
it would try to block the updated Hillcrest
browser or Google TV.

In general, Hulu’s content partners don’t
want the site’s content to be available on TVs,
on the theory that access to its free on-demand
episodes would discourage some from ponying
up for cable or satellite-TV subscriptions.

In a statement, Hillcrest Labs founder and
CEO Dan Simpkins said: “We fully respect
the rights of content owners and aggregators,
and as such, we do not deep link, reindex, divert
users past ads or overlay diff erent user
interfaces on video players. However, we
believe consumers should be able to use the
Kylo browser to visit any site on the Web on
the display screen of their choice.”

Simpkins said his company hopes “a respectful
dialogue with Hulu will encourage
them to consider changing their policies.”

Hillcrest’s strategy with the free Kylo browser
is to promote its Loop motion-sensitive
pointer. Other features of Kylo 0.7 include: the
ability to launch the browser from a plug-in
created for Windows Media Center; an auto
hide option for the control bar and keyboard;
enhanced zooming; print from the TV; and
an updated directory of links.

Hillcrest declined to disclose how many
times Kylo has been downloaded.