June 29, 2009, 7:57 AM — Over the weekend, Hulu.com started blocking Playstation 3 owners from accessing content, as reported by Engadget (the PS3's operating system includes a web browser). When a PS3 user tries to view a video they get a black screen with the message "Unfortunately, this video is not available on your platform. We apologize for any inconvenience."
(If you're a Firefox user you can test this yourself. Install the Useragent Switcher Add-on and set your useragent string to "Mozilla/5.0 (PLAYSTATION 3; 2.00)" and then try to access a video at Hulu.com.)
Hulu.com has yet to comment on this change of policy (their Terms of Service was updated on June 26th) but we can speculate. There is an on-going battle between Hulu and Boxee, with Boxee trying to offer Hulu content through its interface, and Hulu trying to prevent this from happening. Presumably this is because Boxee is ideally used with Apple TV or a computer hooked up to a television. The Hulu/Boxee combo brings network television shows to the TV in your living room. The Playstation 3 browser, coupled with Hulu, does the same thing. It isn't too much of a reach to imagine network execs and cable TV providers being very nervous about that idea, and they could be pressuring Hulu to block this kind of access. (Of course that same computer hooked up to the TV could just use its web browser to do the same thing.)
A more interesting theory is that Microsoft paid off Hulu to block the PS3. Rumors of Hulu coming to the Xbox 360 have been circulating ever since Netflix 'Watch Now' arrived on the console. If in fact Microsoft was in negotiations with Hulu to offer the service through their hardware, it isn't hard to imagine one condition of the deal (sweetened with a big sack of shiny gold coins) being that Playstation 3 owners be blocked. (But then, see above re: nervous network execs.)
No matter what the truth is, once again the consumer loses out. Is it too much to ask for transparency when changes like this are made? Wouldn't it be refreshing if Hulu made clear why it is suddenly cutting off some users of its service?
Stranded PS3 owners, check out PlayOn as an alternate method of getting Hulu content on you PS3. I haven't personally tried it yet, but I hear good things about it. You will need a PC to run Playon on, though.