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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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  • The more onerous restrictions legitimate services impose, the more people will be drawn towards services that don't impose such restrictions, like thepiratebay.

  • by burne (686114) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @07:24AM (#34153468)

    I've been blocking certain sites and services for certain groups like forever. If you live in a specific Asian country you haven't been able to send email to me or any of my users for like ten years.

    It's my website, and I allow or disallow you to see my content. Just like I allow or disallow people to enter my house. Why should things be different when you are Hulu, NBC or anybody/anything else? Within the bounds of law anybody has a right to discriminate.

  • by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:00AM (#34153630) Homepage Journal

    The networks are trying to protect their money. To them, letting people watch their shows on computers broadens their market. Letting people watch their shows on GoogleTV or similar set top devices on a TV undermines their higher paying conventional TV market, they generally get a lot more money from ads on TV and carriage agreements than they do with Hulu.

  • by RDW (41497) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:06AM (#34153664)

    'It would be nice to side with Google here, but they do exactly the same on YouTube. Apply restrictions that content producers require.'

    Indeed. Playing around with the new Apple TV yesterday, I found that the full-length programmes on UK Channel 4's YouTube channels (e.g. http://www.youtube.com/4oDDocumentaries [youtube.com] ) aren't accessible with this device even from the UK (they're geographically blocked as well, of course). In this case (basically the same problem iPhone users have with these videos) it seems to be a combination of the usual short-sighted DRM policy from the provider (which fondly imagines serving their stuff only as flv via rtmp makes it 'secure' - presumably they haven't tried RTMPDump!), and Apple's well-known refusal to provide Flash support:

    http://getsatisfaction.com/channel4/topics/create_a_iphone_app_for_4od [getsatisfaction.com]

    With this sort of nonsense going on all the time, it seems like the only thing you can plug into a TV and make full use of all the (freely and legally!) available content is a media PC with a conventional browser.

  • by camperdave (969942) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:15AM (#34153712) Journal

    The more onerous restrictions legitimate services impose, the more people will be drawn towards services that don't impose such restrictions, like thepiratebay.

    Yes, when will corporations realize that information services are not scarcity driven, but are plentitude driven? The more shows that you provide, the more customers you will attract.

  • by Dogtanian (588974) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:19AM (#34153730) Homepage

    You block asia?

    No, he said that he is blocking "a specific Asian country".

    Fine, be a racist asshole

    How do you know he was doing it to be racist? Perhaps there were significant problems almost exclusively associated with usage/abuse from a particular country that would justify blocking it.

    Bottom line is that I don't even know if I'm playing Devil's advocate here, because there isn't really enough info in the original to determine if he's being a racist dick or not. And nor is there enough info to point the finger and yell "racist!"- every time someone does so on Slashdot when there is a hint of by-area blocking just makes them sound like the boy that cried wolf.

  • by gru3hunt3r (782984) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:28AM (#34153774) Journal

    Hmm.. well Google ultimately (at the moment) has the most control.

    What they did with the Facebook address book is interesting - they said "you either play nice, or we won't" - and that's a VERY interesting corporate precedent they've established.
    It basically translates into a simple "quid pro quo" - or perhaps even better "we only have to play nice, when others do".

    What I'd like to see Google announce tomorrow --
    Okay NBC, Hulu, etc. our new policy: we won't index sites which decide to arbitrarily support devices due to "incompatible business models" ..

    and poof - from one moment to the next there will be a big black smoking crater where those websites once were in the google index.

    I don't see why Google.com should be expected to maintain a compatibility database for sites, and return different results so they don't accidentally send Google TV viewers to NBC, Hulu, etc. it's probably easier for them to just drop those offending sites until they "work out their technical difficulties".

    Alternatively Google can just put up big red warning messages adjacent to search results that basically say "this site is broken, it may not work correctly" as sort of a warning that "you either fix it, or we'll drop you in 30 days" or something like that.

    "I will shit on the towel of anybody who pee's in the pool."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:50AM (#34153882)

    Since when is blocking one specific Asian country being a racist asshole? You don't even know which country, or why.

    Enlighten us, then? I'm tending towards the GP's appraisal of your specific blocking as a racist action (if not a sign of racism as such), but I'm willing to be educated. (That said: only blocking "one specific country" is actually not an argument in your favor, IMO, quite the opposite.)

    Would you like to live in a nanny-state where goverment dictates who to sell to, or who not to sell to? And since your goverment dictates who to admit to websites and shops, it's a small step for that goverment to dictate who may enter your house.

    You know, any merit that your points may have is really going out the window as soon as you start throwing around terms like "nanny-state" (a meaningless term used by right-wingers when they run out of actual arguments) and constructing ridiculously unrealistic slippery slopes. Yeah, it's a small step for the government to dictate who may enter your house, indeed! It's also a small step for the government to clone Adolf Hitler, have him gay-marry Lenin's zombie corpse, and create a pinko commie fascist dictatorship.

    I'm not sure if you're just yakking on because you enjoy listening to yourself (or reading your own comments) or whether you're genuinely trying to convince people who read your comments of your position, but if it's the latter, you really need to try a different approach.

  • by westlake (615356) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @08:55AM (#34153908)

    The more onerous restrictions legitimate services impose, the more people will be drawn towards services that don't impose such restrictions, like thepiratebay.

    The Pirate Bay is nothing:

    A few weeks ago, video delivery favorite Netflix made headlines with an amazing statistic: twenty percent of all downstream Internet traffic during peak home Internet usage hours in North America.
    To put that amazing figure in perspective, that's more than what YouTube, iTunes, Hulu and even Bittorrent each individually manage.
    Impressed? Now consider this: Netflix has managed to account for 20% of the North American internet's collective broadband without a streaming-only subscription service. Though one has just been introduced at a lower price, the 20% number was achieved without one...
    Now consider this: that 20% of all internet traffic? It was accomplished by a mere 2% of Netflix's subscribers.
    Netflix's streaming growth might be too much for the Internet to handle [geek.com]

    Netflix has 15 million subscribers. 2% of 15 million is 300,000.

    The Netflix client is in your HDTV, Blu-Ray player, video game console and set-top box.

    The HD video stream is seconds away from launch.

  • by KingSkippus (799657) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:03AM (#34153934) Homepage Journal

    You say that facetiously, like it's not a big deal, but as the article points out, how long before this spreads to differentiating between what browser you're using?

    I can easily imagine a scenario where a company like Hulu might start making exclusive distribution deals with someone like Microsoft. If you're not using Internet Explorer, you'll get a message that says something like, "We're sorry, but this program is only available to users using Internet Explorer 10. Click here to download the latest version..." Sure, you can edit the User Agent string, but most people won't bother. Users using Linux, Macs, etc. can outright be blocked based on the Adobe ID just as GoogleTV users are being blocked now from the shows as the article points out.

    I agree with the the article. Some new legal framework needs to be set up so that discrimination based on platform like this is not legal. I know that it sounds harsh, but as long as it's legal and companies are willing and able to extort other companies for lucrative exclusive contracts, this is going to be extremely ugly.

  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:23AM (#34154034) Journal
    The more I look into this kind of issues, the harder it becomes to not consider them like a bug in the capitalist/free trade system. I am not sure this makes me a communist but hey.. It is hard to think about copyright as something that helps spread and disseminate culture anymore. And this kind of greed-driven move just goes to the opposite of innovation, and possibilities. I thought this economical system was supposed to transform individual greed into overall progress, but the more I look into it, the more broken it appears to me...
  • by somersault (912633) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @09:57AM (#34154240) Homepage Journal

    And how exactly can they enforce those restrictions without copyright law?

  • by Tharsman (1364603) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:44AM (#34154536)

    So, what if i connect my computer to that 37" computer monitor with HDTV tuner, that is in my living room?

    As far as networks care, cases like this are just outliers and they just don't worry too much about them.

    I'm failing to see how a pc hooked to my TV is different than the googleTV computer hooked to my tv? Care to explain that to me?

    Easy and yet complex. In short: If there is no difference between hooking your computer to the TV or Google TV, then GoogleTV is redundant and should not exist.

    If you can think off any reason for GoogleTV to exist, you answer your question on why they are different. I can think of many reasons but I'll let you think off the ones you very likely already know.

    Note, I'm not saying I LOVE the fact that this is happening, but I understand it.

  • by Tharsman (1364603) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @10:47AM (#34154556)

    Didn't you ask this to me already in another post? As I stated there: If there is no difference then GoogleTV is redundant and should not exist.

    If you can think off a reason for it to exist, then you answer your own question on why they are different.

  • by ScrewMaster (602015) * on Sunday November 07, 2010 @12:41PM (#34155314)

    I mean, should I call the French "Frenchians"? The Germans "Germanians"? How about "Greenies" for people from Greenland? No?

    Of course not. It'd be like calling Britons "Brits".

    Is it? I think you're being presumptuous. Do they consider it to be a retarded term? Do they object to it? That's the question: doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. Not you, not me. I just don't see any reason to insult and/or annoy people from other places just for fun. Kinda pointless.

  • by Uberbah (647458) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @01:09PM (#34155538)

    The Pirate Bay is nothing:

    Netflix is nothing for when you want to watch a TV show that aired two hours ago. Someday that will be different, but not now.

  • by ADRA (37398) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @01:14PM (#34155592)

    I would say you only have a difference of opinion. For one, it does really suck not being within a geographic distribution channel that a service supports. Being in Canada, there are a ton of useful services that are either available in US/Europe that aren't available here. It is frustrating and inane. Netflix only just came to Canada a couple months ago. I as a developer could only just sell android apps to anyone a month or so ago. Hulu? Can't get it without crazy proxy workarounds. Like I said, as a consumer, having the ability to go to thepiratebay.org or a similar service makes sense because frankly there is no distinction about what is or isn't available to me as a consumer. Quite frankly, its the content provider's fault of not arranging the proper agreements and policies to get the content into the hands of people willing to monetize them for it.

    On the flip side, content producers have stupid policies where they usually grant distributors monopolies of distribution for given territories. This is a flaw in the way producers distribute their content into the future, and it will have to be addressed sooner or later if they ever hope to stem the tide of unauthorized copyright activity.

  • by Tharsman (1364603) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @01:46PM (#34155846)

    1) Remote friendly. There is no reason that it couldn't be run on my "normal" computer anyways. 2) Pre installed on a toaster like device. Again no reason that I or someone couldn't offer something similar running on x86 with win7, flash 10.1 and such already to go.

    Despite you finding no reason why it can't be run in a normal computer, there is obviously a reason why no one is doing it. Either that or corporations hate money, and we know that is not true.

    Many have tried to do these things and no one has succeeded so far. The best results have always been where the entire thing is just packaged as a setup box and made plug and play.

    The distinction off the devices is not blurred just because you potentially can emulate the setup-box experience in your PC with some geeky work that would be impossible for the average Joe.

    BTW, [from what I have heard] the reason Hulu blocked Boxee initially, was precisely due to realizing Boxee allowed to watch Hulu on your TV via Windows Media Center extender (specially with the XBox.) So this is not about you blocking something that can potentially be used on the PC, but to block something that can potentially be used to do "easy" TV streaming.

  • by demonlapin (527802) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @01:56PM (#34155940) Homepage Journal
    If distributors didn't get monopolies, they wouldn't spend any money promoting the stuff.
  • by node 3 (115640) on Sunday November 07, 2010 @03:51PM (#34156720)

    Through contract law, just like every other contract ever written.

    Excellent. So, since I have never signed a contract with Paramount, I can legally distribute Iron Man 2 throughout the world? I wish you would have told me this sooner!

  • by Narcogen (666692) <narcogenNO@SPAMnarcogen.com> on Monday November 08, 2010 @12:53AM (#34159320) Homepage

    You are really an ass. This is why people (myself included) hate people from the U.S. so much. The United States of America is a SUBSET of all the states of America. It's rude to insult all Americans when typically it is just those from the U.S. that fuck things up so much. We desperately need a new adjective to refer to a person from the U.S. but until one formally exists, USian will have to do. Just don't ever use the word "American" unless you mean it to refer to everyone on this hemisphere.

    This is ridiculous. I've met people from Mexico, Columbia, and Brazil and not one of them ever identified themselves to me, or anyone else I knew, as "Americans" or expressed the idea that they felt lumped in with things said about citizens of the USA because of the use of the term "American". They were Colombian, Mexican, or Brazilian, and those were the words you used to describe them.

    You're just being pedantic. It is true that "America" is a continent rather than a country, and it is perhaps inaccurate, or at least incomplete, for people to have shortened "United States of America" to "America" but that is not particularly surprising, as it is the only state on that continent that uses the the continent's name in the name of the nation itself. The other areas to which you refer-- North America, Central America, and South America, are arbitrary geographic distinctions and not political ones. There's no country or political entity that is both contiguous and inclusive of "South America" or "Central America" or even "North America" (unless you count trade treaties).

    I'm going to continue to use the word "American" the way most people understand it-- to mean citizens of the USA. Anything else is putting some kind of odd political agenda ahead of being understood.

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