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How Hulu, NBC, and Other Sites Block Google TV 338

Posted by Soulskill
from the user-agent-what dept.
Shortly after the launch of Google TV, it became clear that several networks and services were blocking access. Reader padarjohn points out a blog post from Lauren Weinstein explaining the blocking mechanisms being used and wondering why it's being tolerated. "Imagine the protests that would ensue if Internet services arbitrarily blocked video only to Internet Explorer or Firefox browsers! Or if Hulu and the other networks decided they'd refuse to stream video to HP and Dell computers because those manufacturers hadn't made deals with the services to the latter's liking." Various workarounds are being used to get around the blocks.
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How Hulu, NBC, and Other Sites Block Google TV

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  • Google does the same (Score:3, Informative)

    by devbox (1919724) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:12AM (#34153416)

    Imagine the protests that would ensue if Internet services arbitrarily blocked video only to Internet Explorer or Firefox browsers! Or if Hulu and the other networks decided they'd refuse to stream video to HP and Dell computers because those manufacturers hadn't made deals with the services to the latter's liking.

    You mean like country restrictions?

    It would be nice to side with Google here, but they do exactly the same on YouTube. Apply restrictions that content producers require. This time they're just on the other side of the game, and get restricted themself.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:45AM (#34153544)
    You mean like country restrictions?

    There's a huge difference between the two, though. The country restrictions are there due to copyright law. Distributers in other countries could bring legitimate lawsuits against YouTube/Google if they started offering videos everywhere (and the distros would likely win).* With the Hulu/Google issue, it's simply that the networks don't want to play nice -- there are no international laws (or even local ones) prohibiting content from being shown on GoogleTV devices.

    *Now all this isn't to say that copyright laws need to change, but since the laws are written and in place, YouTube/Google needs to follow them.
  • by pedantic bore (740196) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:55AM (#34153602)

    Owners of a content distribution channel for content are attempting to exercise their right to control how that channel is accessed, albeit in a stupid and pointless way! Horror!

  • by LWATCDR (28044) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:56AM (#34153604) Homepage Journal

    They have the right but that doesn't mean that we have to like it.
    The reality is that TV used to be free. You put up an antenna and got TV for free. The networks made money by showing commercials. What consumers want is a return to that type of system. We do not want to pay $100 plus dollars for two hundred channels of which we watch 5. This is going to be the new reality and the Networks need to get a grip on it. The Cable TV model is passing. My mother in law lives near Dallas and gets all her TV OVA again. She gets like 30 channels and all the networks for free.
    Where I live that isn't an option which is too bad so my wife and I are probably just going to drop Cable and watch Hulu. The one channel we really want is CBS for Big Bang Theory but we are willing to stop watching that to save a thousand plus dollars a year.
    If the other networks want to not have us watch that is their business or lack of.
     

  • Re:USER-AGENT (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:00AM (#34153632)

    Flash can report back the os it is using with no way to spoof it right now they been using this method to block android phones from hulu now for awhile.

  • Re:USER-AGENT (Score:5, Informative)

    by KermodeBear (738243) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:01AM (#34153640) Homepage

    Read the articles and you will be enlightened.

  • by corby (56462) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:02AM (#34153642)

    Google should just make an advanced configuration settings page, and let users set whatever user-agent/etc they want there.

    As the linked article states, Google does allow users to set their user-agent. The video content sites are blocking on the Flash Version ID, and Adobe does not provide a mechanism for changing that.

  • by whong09 (1307849) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:49AM (#34153880)
    www.droidforums.net/forum/droid-general-discussions/57157-youtube-blocking-moble-devices.html

    It's legitimate. And it's also happening to me.

    I own a CM6 rooted Froyo android phone and I've had this problem with some youtube videos being inaccessible ever since I've had the phone. That this isn't common knowledge is just surprising.
  • by grumling (94709) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:44AM (#34154150) Homepage

    You mean like what happened when I tried to watch a program that was posted here [frbatlanta.org] yesterday and couldn't because the FED uses Microsoft codecs to stream their content?

  • by GweeDo (127172) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:47AM (#34154166) Homepage

    Google isn't your problem there man. Those videos aren't allowed due to the content creator. Right now the mobile devices don't support Google's advertising system on YouTube. So if you can't see the ads that overlay the video, you can't see the video.

  • by PhreakOfTime (588141) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:58AM (#34154250) Homepage

    This seems to clearly be a case of one hand not knowing the other hand is doing.

    Im going to go with its a case of CNBC and NBC having different internal rules as a result of the planned diversification that GE/NBC has been doing for over 25 years now.

    Or in other words;
    This parent comment seems to clearly be a case of someone not having the slightest idea of the organizational elements of a large corporation, and instead distilling it down to an incorrectly simplified idea.

  • by Tharsman (1364603) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:02AM (#34154288)

    We cant blame them, at least from what I have read. From what I read a while back, Studios license their content to these sites with explisit conditions that it's for computer viewing only. When a setup box can leach the videos, the service providers (like Hulu) get in trouble with the content owners and are forced to take action to stop it.

    To be able to stream to TVs they need to get special licenses, that is why Hulu Plus does not have the same content as regular PC Web Hulu.

    Netflix sort of dodges that bullet by foresight. They jumped into video streaming early, and they also got license for console streaming before launching the XBox version (some may recall Sony pictures did not grant license right away and were restricted to only play in PCs.)

    At the end of the day, they want different fees and licensing terms if the stuff is going to be streamed to TVs, and I bet viewership be tracked by device and reported back.

  • by hedwards (940851) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:13AM (#34154360)
    It's probably because they aren't delivering the content via Flash and the HTML5 version doesn't yet support ads. Meaning that those were probably videos where the person uploaded it requiring ads and they can't presently show ads with HTML5. I'm not sure why all mobile devices are blocked, but I'm guessing it has to do with the fact that most Android phones don't support flash properly or at all.

    Not saying that's necessarily the case, but it's not necessarily them being mean and short sighted.
  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:19AM (#34154394) Journal

    >>>The country restrictions are there due to copyright law.

    Close but not quite true. When DVDs were first introduced with Region coding, it was done to prevent citizens from buying products from overseas, like Japan or China, for less money than the home versions. The companies wanted to make that impossible, and thereby "break" the global free market. Sell the DVD for $1 in China, and $20 in the EU or US.

    Now they've extended that concept to Online video.
    Basically it's all about Control and money.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:26AM (#34154424) Journal

    >>>it's simply that the networks don't want to play nice

    Pretty much. They want you watch the shows on COMCAST and other cable companies, not over the internet. I submitted the following article to slashdot about a week ago:

    NBC's Syfy delaying online episodes 30 days

    The Comcast/NBC-owned Syfy cable channel has decided to delay Online airing of new episodes. Most of its shows (including Haven, Ghost Hunters, Sanctuary) will not be legally available online for 30 days, in an attempt to get more people watching the show live on their Cable or Dish TV subscriptions. The response from Syfy VP Craig Engler: "How soon we post video is dependent on various agreements with producers, distributors, etc. We post as much as we can as soon as we can."

    The explanation given by Hulu on their Stargate Universe page: "The first 3 episodes of the new season will be available the day after their original airdates. Subsequent episodes will become available 30 days after their original airdates."

    The full article is here: http://forums.syfy.com/index.php?showtopic=2351127 [syfy.com]

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @11:44AM (#34154538) Journal

    Rachel Maddow appeared on MSNBC the other night and did point-out that CNBC has different rules from the other NBC-owned properties. She was discussing Keith Olbermann and how he was forbidden from giving contributions to politicians, which is a universal rule across all the NBC-owned channels... except the financial channel CNBC where it's a-okay.

    Apparently CNBC has a different organizational structure separate from NBC, MSNBC, Syfy, and so on, which is why you can't watch NBC, MSNBC, Syfy, et al on the GoogleTV box, but you can watch CNBC just fine.

  • by hey! (33014) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @12:46PM (#34154976) Homepage Journal

    Since language is all important in today's politics, I suggest that Network Neutrality is a misnomer. It suggests that it is an issue only for network providers.

    It suggests correctly. Net neutrality is the network version of freedom of association. It's about forbidding the providers of the tubes say, "You must get this content from A rather than B." It has nothing to do with A saying, "I don't want you to have this content," or "I don't want you to have this content unless you do certain things (e.g., pay me, use the playback devices of people who pay me, etc.)."

    A content provider discriminating against *users* is not a net neutrality issue, even if that discrimination is unreasonable, or even *illegal*. There are legitimate reasons to discriminate against users (e.g., users who haven't paid for content, protecting the privacy of other users, etc.) Not every reasonable person agrees on every single case of this, but I think most reasonable persons who has looked at the question of net neutrality would agree it's a good idea, provided they don't have some stake in giving network providers control over content choices.

    The point of net neutrality is to preserve a free market for content. It's to keep low barriers to entry for people who have a new idea for an information service. Imagine you've got an idea that will revolutionize online music delivery. Imagine that as wonderful as this would be for users, the network provider makes more from its side deals with existing delivery services than it would from a deal with you. Good luck getting access to that network's subscribers.

    Net neutrality is about maintaining an even playing field when it comes to accessing customers or services. It's not about forcing content providers to provide content to people they don't want to have it. Nor is it about things like bandwidth caps and pricing. I think the network providers should be free to slap bandwidth caps on accounts and charge premium prices for guaranteed bandwidth if they want, so long as they're (a) up front about what they're doing and (b) don't use bandwidth to favor one content provider over another.

    "Freedom of the Internet" would be almost a Orwellian term, since it would force people to provide content to people they don't want to have it. Net Neutrality is a concept entirely consistent with the ideas of classical liberalism, like markets and competition. Case in point. I used Hulu for a bit a couple years back. Since then I've got several devices which I use to view media (including an Android phone with flash), and Hulu doesn't work on any of them. As a result Hulu's share of my media consumption time is diluted, and any chance of hooking me is quashed.

    Hulu is not run by people too stupid to see something that obvious. I'm sure they'd be delighted to simplify their delivery model, reach more customers, and grab a greater share of their customers' attention, but they've got to juggle that with the intractable, self-destructive paranoia of the content owners. It's quite possible that they'll miss the wave as consumer habits change, but it won't be because they don't know the wave is coming.

  • by h4rm0ny (722443) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @01:03PM (#34155088) Journal
    And when one party doesn't sign a contract, you need a default state: it means they do have the legal ability to copy and re-distribute the work, or they don't. Without copyright law, it's the former which brings us exactly back to the need for copyright law.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 07, 2010 @01:08PM (#34155126)

    I decompiled Hulu's loadplayer.swf. Hulu only seems to use Flash to override the JavaScript DOM properties.

    loadplayer.swf ActionScript:
    function gatherDomInfo()
    { ...
    this._domDB["navigator.buildID"] = LoadPlayer.getProp("navigator.buildID");
    this._domDB["navigator.userAgent"] = LoadPlayer.getProp("navigator.userAgent");
    this._domDB["window.isDebugger"] = System.capabilities.isDebugger;
    this._domDB["navigator.manufacturer"] = System.capabilities.manufacturer;
    this._domDB["navigator.os"] = System.capabilities.os;
    this._domDB["navigator.playerType"] = System.capabilities.playerType;
    this._domDB["navigator.screenResolutionX"] = System.capabilities.screenResolutionX;
    this._domDB["navigator.screenResolutionY"] = System.capabilities.screenResolutionY;
    this._domDB["navigator.version"] = System.capabilities.version;
    }

    static.huluim.com/system/hulu_76592_1105234202.js JavaScript:
    Object.extend(MobileDevice,{
    deviceConfig:{
    "iOS":{
    cookie_name:"hulu_ios_app",watch_pattern:"hulu://w/#{vid}"
    },
    "android":{
    cookie_name:"hulu_android_app",watch_pattern:"http://www.hulu.com/watch/#{vid}.hulu?vid=#{vid}"
    },
    "GoogleTV":{
    cookie_name:"hulu_google_tv"
    }
    },
    deviceType:null,deviceVersion:0,warningEnabledForPage:true,
    getDeviceType:function(){
    return MobileDevice.deviceType;
    },
    getDeviceVersion:function(){
    return MobileDevice.deviceVersion;
    },
    getCookieName:function(){
    var device=MobileDevice.getDeviceType();
    var device_config=MobileDevice.deviceConfig[device];
    if(!device_config)return"";
    return device_config.cookie_name;
    },
    platform:null,platformWithArticle:null,flags:{},
    init:function(){
    var ua=navigator.userAgent;
    if((/#ua-(.*)$/).test(window.location.hash)){Behaviors.eraseCookie("mobile_warning");
    ua=RegExp.$1;
    }
    MobileDevice.flags.isSupported=false;
    MobileDevice.flags.useJavascriptMasthead=false;
    MobileDevice.flags.fuckedDocumentObserve=false;
    if((/(ipad|itouch|iphone)/i).test(ua)){
    MobileDevice.deviceType="iOS";
    MobileDevice.flags.show

  • by dryeo (100693) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @01:19PM (#34155188)

    The first copyright law's full title was "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned" which sounds pretty cultural to me.
    Of course it started out as a law to make copyright a true type of property with no expiration and it was the unelected house of lords who fought against locking up all the learning for ever.
    America basically just adopted the current English law right down to the 14+14 year term.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statute_of_Anne [wikipedia.org]

  • by Sloppy (14984) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @01:57PM (#34155438) Homepage Journal

    Sounds the like the same defect. The server can distinguish between a "TV" vs a "computer" (whatever the hell that means) just like it can distinguish between a "mobile" and a "not mobile" (whatever the hell that means). The N900 is mobile but from a software perspective it nearly isn't. A laptop is a mobile but the mainstream says it's not. It's just going to get more blurry, just as the distinction between "TV" and "computer" did.

    And that defect is Flash. Because of the fact that people are not in control of the software they use, they're having to get proprietary blobs from Adobe, and those blobs are coming with particular identifiers which let people make these arbitrary distinctions. It's kind of sad; I wonder if embedded TV software is going to become the same disaster that phones did.

    It sounds like we need an implementation of RTMP, and probably some more improvements to wannabe competing implementations like Gnash; the whole point being to let Flash really become a standard (where people can choose which implementation to load and expect it to Just Work), so that Adobe can either be brought under the users' control or eliminated.

  • The future (Score:3, Informative)

    by JimboFBX (1097277) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @02:57PM (#34155944)
    I'm using the future right now, I have a 65" Mitsubishi DLP TV with a super gaming computer hooked up to it via HDMI. I can play games like Bad Company 2 in stereo-3D. Its completely awesome, and then when I'm done I can watch hulu or netflix or whatever on my big TV in full screen mode. I use a USB extension cord so I can interact with it from across the room without getting that crappy mouse responsiveness problem you get with wireless (likewise so that the 3d sync isn't interfered with)

    Just as a FYI, those sony and samsung 3D TVs you see on display every absolutely suck compared to DLP 3D. Go to RC Willy and try out their 3D TV demos if you haven't already.

    Also technically GoogleTV is a computer, as is your Sega Genesis and your Xbox and your toaster...
  • by EllisDees (268037) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @03:46PM (#34156304)

    Well that explains why I haven't seen any new episodes on Hulu. Torrentreactor, here I come...

  • by ogl_codemonkey (706920) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @06:15PM (#34157188)

    Stop using the retarded term "USian".

    We non-USians do it just to piss of those (mostly USians) who think it's a retarded term. Thank you for giving us our reward.

    I use it mostly as a benign distinction between the US, and Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Brazil...

    I use the name of their choosing when referring to them. That's only reasonable. Do you have to right to decide what citizens of another country should call themselves? I mean, should I call the French "Frenchians"? The Germans "Germanians"? How about "Greenies" for people from Greenland?

    You're not bringing up good points in the defence of your stance with that one. While you're kind of close with French (Francais); the German for German is Deutscher, the Inuit and Dutch heritage of 'Greenland' certainly doesn't use 'Greenlander' (but my google-fu hasn't turned up a roman-alphabet approximation of it). And while we're at it, the Japanese for Japanese is (ni.hon-jin)

  • by batkiwi (137781) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @07:22PM (#34157556)

    Google forced Popcorn Hour to remove their youtube movie viewing capability because it hadn't been sanctioned by google.

    http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2009/11/youtube-blocks-non-partner-device-syabas-as-allegations-fly/ [wired.com]

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday November 09, 2010 @05:28PM (#34179344) Journal

    I'd rather listen to FOX Radio or CBS Radio, rather than the government-sponsored National Propaganda Radio.

    Same goes for PBS. I listen to the news on these latter two channels and it makes me sick. "More government, more government, more government" is what the message boils down to. And of course, less freedom

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