"Tivo-ifies the web" Paul Kedrosky

TV is moving to the Web in the Wrong Way.

UK’s Channel 4 is to put its entire back catalog online for free

That’s the good news. The bad news is that this will presumably only apply within the UK.

Increasingly the dream of on-demand, online TV of the type that I tried to make available here from scraps that required sifting through endless search results is becoming a reality.

But there is one thing that is fucking it up royally – regionalization. The same moronic, antediluvian thinking that means that you can’t watch a DVD you bought in one country, in another is being applied to nearly all legitimate TV on the web. Its a disaster, something that doesn’t apply for music or text and is ruining something that could be great.

The usual excuse for this not being possible is the impossibility of handling things like the payments of residuals to actors. Like the music industry, the people who deal with this feel very threatened by the Internet and are actively trying to hold up progress.

The sad thing is that people won’t notice. You can’t miss something you never knew. But imagine if people in the UK could watch Hulu or people in the US could watch the Channel 4 in the same way that they can read the BBC online.



15 comments on “TV is moving to the Web in the Wrong Way.

  1. Graham says:

    Hulu is launching in the UK later this year.

    It seems like, inevitably, regionalisation will disappear, but it's an understandably slow process. When people watch television programmes on Hulu, the networks make less money than they would if those people watched it on broadcast television. Obviously, they make more than if those people pirated the same shows, but there's hardly a monetary incentive to rush.

    Beyond actors residuals, there's the more complicated – and common – excuse of TV show broadcast rights being sold to different channels in different countries. How do, say, Sky feel when they're paying a huge sum for 24 airing rights in the UK, and now 24's owners are competing by streaming the show for free, online on Hulu? Multiply that by a thousand shows on a thousand channels in hundreds of countries.

    1. I agree its complicated, but there are simple interim solutions that are being blocked. The back catalog doesn't have the same problems, for example.

      I used to work at an incubator and we looked at the business model of adcritic.com. This was before the days of YouTube and the assumption was that adcritic went under because of bandwidth costs. So we tracked down the founders and called them up. It turned out that legal pressure from the residuals people, who were hostile to anything that would undermine their privileged but ultimately outdated position in a changing status quo, put them under.

      TV rights are complicated, but its also true that DVD regionalization is a legacy of an anachronistic business model applied to digital media. Some of the controlling parties of the pre-digital marketplace have no interest in helping move things along to the eventual end goal which will inevitably reduce their role, why should they, unless people make a fuss. But that goal is inevitable, and one of the steps along the way would be to open up the back catalogs.

    2. To summarize – I am not so naive as to think that there are no problems with removing geographic restrictions on TV streaming. But I also know that encouraging people to make a fuss and ask for things helps put pressure on people to speed things along.

  2. hntrnyc says:

    As a lifelong fan of BBC programming, I would gladly pay a premium to get real access to the channels even if it came on cable system. BBC America is a very, very poor representation of what is available across the pond and even so is still only available with "premium" packages. Is the creation of an international portal by the BBC itself not beneficial enough for them to consider it?

  3. Kalebarkab says:

    I want to find good pop music. Help me please.

  4. Jonathan says:

    I'm sick of the BBC Entertainment channel – its one long repeats loop.

    It's going to take ages for the system for international broadcast to work itself out as artists appearing in BBC programming will want extra money for international distribution. This affects what BBC can broadcast on their international network as much as what Channel4 or other broadcasters can put online.

    In the meantime there's always proxy servers, if any of you are not sure what I mean or how to set one up here is one service: http://www.ukproxyserver.co.uk/ – little searching around and you'll find plenty of them.

    1. hntrnyc says:

      Thanks for the intel Jonathan, do you know if anyone has had luck using the proxy server route? I have been frustrated by BBC radio dropping international access to the football phone in shows that I used to be able to access online.

      And yeah, if I have to see another FOX show (Kitchen Nightmares USA)l or another old James Bond flick foisted as a "BBC" programming…………….well, I guess I will just continue going the more nefarious route to current programs. Nuff said.

      1. Jonathan says:

        Right now I don't use a proxy service so I cannot give you a personal pointer.

        However I can say that I live in Singapore which is proxy unfriendly and despite this there is a pub near where I work that has UK TV run on a professional proxy server service which they mainly use for sport. It's quite funny walking in around six or seven in the evening and finding crap daytime British TV on live – lets not forget the heaps of crap we left behind us (wherever we came from).

        Proxy servers can get found out and then you lose it so there are two routes:

        1. A professional service thats been around for a while and has sufficient coverage to make enough money to keep beating the man. Personally I'd go with this method and pay up to $10-$20 USD per month after shopping around. I would expect more of these services to come about as time goes by. Choose one that has been operating for a while and has track record and that makes its money without making any obvious enemies.

        2. The other way is a mate who has a bit of IT savvy who'll set up a proxy for you in the UK or other countries (he or she will probably need to live there). It wont need to beat the man as only you'll be using it so it wont be like anyone will notice. In fact I'm sure the Smashing Telly Fan Club could probably chip in and raise enough cash to sort one out so we could all watch enough reruns of Butterflys and Minder – no hang on …

        Anyway the deal with a proxy server is probably more to do with where you are. If you are in America and you want to watch C4 then probably no problem. If you are in China and you want to access Facebook on June the 4 then you'll have to hunt around and swap servers which is a hassle.

        So in contrition let me bring the point back round to David's original point (perhaps he'll post some nice video forus to enjoy), which is what will make broadcasters actually go online with some smarts?

        I really don't know the answer to that one. Here's a corn dolly:

        Codecs wont work out in the short term but don't be surprised if they do in the end and that some mid ground is broken with the broadcasters getting screwed so that we have open access, pay a little and have an open access information universe.

  5. Henry says:

    Excellent point, I'm glad you're making it. I just went through game seven of the Stanley Cup finals jumping from one half baked stream to another. CBC.ca had it but only for ip addresses in Canada; NHL.com had it but only audio for non 'premium' subscribers, etc. On the illegitimate side, sites like http://atdhe.net/ aggregate streams posted to sites like justin.tv.

  6. hntrnyc says:

    Thank You Jonathon and Henry, actually I watched Justin.tv for the first time this weekend, catching the 24 hours at Lemans.
    The proxy may be the route and I would happily pay the amount. Good point also on the amount of trash these days on British television, I for one, perhaps romanticize it more than most. Recently, I scored the first season of the Inbetweeners and despite all the hype was pretty disappointed. On the other hand, I also recently have been turned on to the 2005 series The Thick of It and was truly smitten. I had never even heard of it before as I live in the states and I doubt it will be coming the BBC America anytime soon.
    David, can we perhaps start posting a list of must have shows that some of us may have missed? Or, could you post your all time faves and we can chime in with our own lists as well?

    Just a thought.

    1. Jonathan says:


      You can get In The Thick of It on YouTube, full length episodes of most of season one – Malcolm is bloody brilliant. If you haven't seen it let me get you started with this one.

      1. hntrnyc says:

        Actually Jonathon, I now have the lot, including the two specials that were released after the series. It made my head swim and you are right, Malcolm is bloody brilliant as is the entire series!
        Any opinions on Yes Minister or Yes Prime Minister? Could be my next quarry……

  7. charlesfrith says:

    It's just bollocks isn't it. I live outside the UK currently in Hong Kong and I can't sample a lot of great content like Hulu and now it seems C4.

    I've a theory that progressive societies ossify at some point because there are so many civilised job to ensure fairness that eventually everything is fair and the people employed in them have nothing to do. So they look for anything to justify their positions which seems pretty reasonable to me but I can't imagine being in a job where I was creating needs that don't exist. Oh wait, I work in advertising ;)

    1. alitraxx says:

      Charlesfrith, I live in HK too and I use Hotspot Shield first and then can watch hulu. Won't work for BBC though.

  8. Bakrex says:

    I am very interested in this topic.

Comments are closed.