Friday, March 14, 2008

Hello Hulu! But Not in Canada...



Just about a year ago, I reported on our sister Website http://www.marketnews.ca/ that Fox and NBC had plans to launch their own online video Website where visitors could watch episodes from TV shows aired on those (and other) networks, as well as movies and clips. Well, the site, which has been available to testers since October 2007, is now open to the public. It's name? Hulu!

The decision was in clear response to the popularity of YouTube.com, which was (and in fact still is) where many TV and movie clips end up. YouTube members often record the content from their TVs, then upload it to YouTube for others to view. This includes everything from funny Saturday Night Live sketches (when available), to Jay Leno's Tonight Show monologue, or even a single scene from a primetime TV show. Naturally, this fueled anger and, in some cases, lawsuits, against YouTube, claiming that it was infringing on copyrights by allowing such videos to be posted. If you're a frequent YouTube surfer, you've likely come across a "this video is no longer available" message at some point in time, which is a clear sign that someone waved a red flag.

Rather than file suit, surrender to YouTube (which is now owned by Google), or sit back with arms folded and lips pouting, Fox and NBC has taken the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude, and conjured up the idea for Hulu.com. At launch, the Associated Press claims that more than 250 full-length TV shows are available, ranging from The Simpsons to The Office; as well as 100 or so movies, like Ice Age. In all, programming will be available from over 50 different networks, movie studios, and independent Web-based content makers.

Following the YouTube mentality, the site will also feature humorous clips from movies like Napolean Dynamite and short skits from Saturday Night Live. As for revenue generation, Hulu.com will be supported by ads, and The Associated Press reports that, in some cases, viewers will be "given a choice of advertisements to watch."

I've gone on and on via this blog about how music, movie, and TV producers need to stop, smell the roses, and understand the changing face of content distribution. With this site, Fox and NBC have done just that. If I have to watch a 10-second commercial to see a video clip, so what. I'll suck it up and do it for the sake of supporting content makers. What I don't approve of is companies who throw out lawsuits and force the removal of their content without trying to figure out a way to tailor their own offerings to suit what their customers so obviously want. If you're not going to do it yourself, rest assured that somebody else will beat you to the punch line!

With that said, I excitedly clicked into http://www.hulu.com/ to check it out, and selected a Saturday Night Live clip. What did I get? A plain, black screen that contained the following somber message: "Unfortunately this video is not currently available in your country or region. We apologize for the inconvenience." Oh brother. Here we go again. So while these two big networks are offering up content online, and loyal Canadians like me are willing to support them, we're stuck in our little Canadian rut, unable to enjoy it. I guess I'll just continue to visit YouTube: supposedly that's helping to promote Canadian content regulations. And apparently so is preventing access to online content from U.S. networks. (Note my sarcasm).

I can't blame Fox and NBC for this, however, so kudos to them for making the move. It's the first major step I've seen from a movie studio to fully understand the changing face of the entertainment industry.

U.S. readers, you can access the Hulu service by simply punching in http://www.hulu.com/ into your Web browser. It's also available via AOL, Yahoo Inc., and other web portals. Canadians can visit the site as well; but visitor-beware: it'll be nothing but a tease.

7 comments:

Alfred said...

it's pity Hulu only available to US, so sad I can't watch it

Anonymous said...

It's sad for us Canadians that it's not available, but it really has little to do with Canadian Content Restrictions, etc.. It simply has to do with who holds rights to what programs in what areas. While NBC may own Heroes rights, it has sold the rights to show it in Canada to Global. This means that, in order to honor their agreements, they don't allow people to watch from Canada. (This is similar in various countries around the world). Now, if they could come to an agreement to share revenue with Global when Canadians watch, then I am sure they could work things out. :)

Anonymous said...

Yet Global and others have no control over what I watch on my HDTV antenna. Those US networks out of Buffalo come in nice and clear. Maybe there are clauses in place regarding how content is "broadcast", or maybe these are new things that need to be concidered and addressed.

Patrick Soon said...

I found a way to workaround that Hulu IP address problem. With a little VPN-gadget, you too can watch Hulu anywhere in the world (not just Canada). All you need to do is install a neat little device called Hotspot Shield. I've written a full article describing how to get setup to watch Hulu in Canada (or anywhere else) on my blog. Here's the link:

How to Watch Hulu In Canada

Only con so far is that there is a small banner ad displayed in your browser (which you can manually close). Other than that, it works like a charm.

Anonymous said...

One can easily get around this with a couple of software solutions.

Foxy Proxy - a firefox plug in. This requires a little technical savy.

An easier solution is Hotspot Shield. Install this software, and then point your browser to Hulu or any site our regulators don't want you to see.

Let the bureaucrats think they are doing such a great job. Meanwhile, enjoy the WKRP episodes or whatever else turns your crank.

A. said...

OK so can someone please help me with my particular problem watching video. I like to watch a UK show (Coronation Street) online which is licensed to be seen in Canada on the CBC.CA website. The problem is that I use aol Canada but whose IP addresses are from the USA and the CBC sebsite detects that and so I can't watch!I have tried those IP proxy websites but nothing works! Does anyone have an answer? The site I am trying to watch is www.cbc.ca/coronation. Any computer I have tried (ie internet cafes) has worked just fine, only because I am using aol it doesn't work!

A. said...

I think I would have to use a Proxy IP address in CANADA though for it to work, if they exist, I guess?