Once Around the Geo-Block

Tina Fey joked last year that being on a network TV show today was “like being in vaudeville in the ’60s.” Being in on the new media shows, on the other hand, is like being in television in the ’40s. It’s new and it’s cool.
At least one reader of this site has already suggested that I rename this sight “Media” Feeds My Family. He may be on to something.
Was able to spin a story about some of the hot new digital Internet sites in today’s Toronto Star. The piece–“Point, click–and get geo-blocked,” can be found on the front of the Entertainment section or you can read it here.
Geo-blocking is a big frustration if you’re trying to see a clip from last night’s Conan O’Brien or a SNL sketch or anything from NBC or Fox. Hulu, their big Internet streaming centre, is geo-blocked in Canada and that’s not going to change anytime soon, according to Hulu content vp Andy Forssell. His quote off the press tour hit a nerve with every Canuck in the house. “We get a lot of angry emails from Canadians that consider what we were making available on-line to be their birthright,” he said.
Forssell gets why we all feel that way. His wife is from Toronto.
He told me he doesn’t expect Hulu to sort through all the Canadian content provider agreements for a long time, possibly years. He’s not inclined to start letting some Hulu stuff cross the border and others not–he wants to wait until a total Hulu launch in Canada.
In the meantime, plenty of cool stuff is not geo-blocked in Canada, including the original content at Sony Pictures Television’s Crackle.com. One little show I like at this site is Anytime with Bob Kushell, a five minute Internet talk show hosted by Kushell, a writer on shows like The Simpsons and Samantha Who. Kushell’s little show takes place in his sister’s garage at her house in completely uncool Van Nuys, Calif. You can see the Anytime band up against the wall, next to the rakes and the lawnmower. He tells one crummy monologue joke and then spends two or three minutes with a guest. Here’s Kushell with Howie Mandel:

From Crackle: Anytime with Bob Kushell feat. Howie Mandel

Crackle has several other originals, including a fairly impressive adult comic strip drama called Angel of Death and the raunchy antics of Dave Faustino (Bud Bundy on Married…with Children) in Star-ving. Watch shameless Faustino pulls down his own pants on his failed Hollywood career:

From Crackle: Star-ving Ep 1 feat Ed O’Neill & David Faustino

It’s gross, stupid, and cheap–three things that are fueling this digital revolution.
Faustino told critics at press tour that Sony ponied up “mid six figures” for him to crank out 20 of these five-to-seven minute webisodes. Half a million is nothing in television but it can be stretched pretty far in the wild west of Internet content. Big names like Ed O’Neil and Katey Sagal don’t come cheap unless they’re a) friends and former co-stars of Faustino, which they are and b) into it because it is fun. That kept coming back at the press tour session, how the folks cranking out these cheapie shorts are having a blast doing it, how they’re enjoying the freedom from network interference and notes.
Faustino and others insist people are still getting paid, that some union guidelines are being observed. Would love to see the accounting on that, but for now people seem willing to experiment and bend the rules–at least until somebody monitizes all of this and then things get ugly.
In the meantime it is fun to see it all take off–provided it ain’t geo-blocked.

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