Today’s Star: Blocking the Geo-Block

Want to know how to work around geo-blocks in order to access TV shows when surfing the ‘net? I have a piece in today’s Toronto Star which addresses just that. You can read the full story here or, better yet, buy a newspaper!
The main end-around answer for Canadian surfers looking to access U.S. sites such as Hulu.com or TV.com is AnchorFree. By going to their site here you can download the Hotspot Shield. The Shield cloaks your ISP code, so site like Hulu and others that are geo-blocked can’t tell what region or territory you are in–allowing you to gain access to restricted content.
AnchorFree CEO and founder David Gorodyansky estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of Canadian Hotspot Shield users already surfing the Internet. “it seems to me that the whole idea of the Internet is to not have borders,” says Gorodyansky, reached on the phone in his Norther California offices. “For companies, or entities or organizations who try to control users on line, it’s getting tougher and tougher for them. People are getting really smart, really tech savvy.”
Still, there as many reasons for not using geo-block end-arounds as there are for using them, including some warnings from consumers who have tried Hotspot Shield and complain about having to sit through ads and other pop-ups. See the Star article comments.
Many who feel that there should be no barriers around the world wide web will take full advantage of AnchorFree’s services. Others who feel honouring site restrictions allows Canadian producers and others to earn more money by selling their content to foreign regions will play by the rules and seek content through domestic windows.
Globaltv’s v.p. pf content, Pary Bell, understands why products like AnchorFree’s Hotspot Shield are so enticing to Canadian web surfers. “However, it does have impacts to what we can do, how we;’re able to execute deals and how we can afford to continue licensing programming,” he says.
Read the full story to see how Canadian digital media managers feel about all this. Teletoon’s Michael Goldsmith, director of original content, notes that geo-block barriers are just as frustrating for Americans seeking Canadian content. His network has received over 200 emails from young fans who want to see the latest webisodes of the Toronto-produced Teletoon favorite Total Drama Action, for example.
Fact is, with 38,000 on demand video clips available at U.S.-based sites like TV.com–which points surfers to Hulu, The WB.com and beyond–there are far more goodies Canadians are blocked from seeing than Americans are.
Geist notes in the Star article that all of these issues will be before the CRTC in a matter of weeks. “The reality that content that was previously available only through conventional broadcast now being available in an on-demand stream fashion is obviously changing the rules of the game as to how broadcasters function and how content is distributed,” he says. “People want to hear more about these channels of distribution and of course the reality that streaming doesn’t necessarily need to have any borders.”

3 Responses to “Today’s Star: Blocking the Geo-Block”

  1. I agree with those comments – I’ve tried a few of the IP blocker tools but they slow my system and don’t work on certain sites, so watching streaming video that way is rarely worth it. If I’m going to go over to the dark side to watch something, bittorrent is the most reliable way. Not that I’d ever illegally download of course. Nosirree.

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  2. Too many networks and distributors are trying to maintain a business model that no longer works.

    Last Month the Monty Python gang decided to offer all their content online in immaculate condition for free and saw their DVD sales increase by 2300%.

    Perhaps the only damage will be to those who felt they had the right to control what we saw and when we saw it.

    I’m not sure whether or not Anchor Free is “Legal” but it strikes me as not that different from the tall antennas people stuck up in Canadian border cities in the 1950’s and 60’s to access programming they wanted to see.

    And let’s not forget that the biggest booms in music and film occurred when people had the opportunity to sample the material for free first.

    If the CRTC chooses to outlaw Anchor Free, it will simply be replaced by something else that gets around the rules and something else after that.

    Networks and distribution systems were always the middlemen between Content and the audience, supposedly making it easy for one to access the other.

    Perhaps that service is no longer needed — or maybe their expertise can be used to enhance the new system.

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  3. Nina Fajardo

    Thanks for the article. I don’t see Hulu coming to Canada anytime soon. However, there are plenty of workarounds available to access it here in Canada . Personally, I use UnoTelly for more than a year and I can access Hulu like I am in US.

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