Hulu takes aim at Netflix, leaving Canadians sidelined

But we can’t legally access the service

by Barry Hertz

The Awesomes (Hulu)

Taking a page from Netflix and Amazon Prime, Hulu is no longer content to simply stream other television networks’ offerings. On Wednesday, the on-demand streaming service announced the second seasons for three original shows it launched last year—including The Awesomes, an animated superhero comedy starring Saturday Night Live‘s Seth Meyers—as well as two new high-profile series: the supernatural comedy Deadbeat, starring Tyler Labine and Cat Deeley, and Hotwives of Orlando, a Real Housewives spoof starring small-screen comedy all-stars Casey Wilson, Angela Kinsey and Kristen Schaal.

The move is a clear signal that Hulu—which offers a selection of TV shows, clips and movies through both a free, ad-supported online streaming service as well as a subscription model—is positioning itself as a competitor to Netflix, which last year broke new ground by producing such original programs as House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black and the fourth season of Arrested Development.

This would all be great news for Canadian TV addicts if it weren’t for the fact that Hulu isn’t available north of the U.S. border. While Hulu offers programming from almost 200 companies—including NBC/Universal, Fox and Disney/ABC, which each own 32% of the company—some of those series are also owned by Canadian broadcasters, tangling up rights in a cross-border boondoggle that’s about as absurd as it sounds in the digital age. Any Canadian who’s tried in vain to watch fresh clips from Saturday Night Live or Parks and Recreation via an online Hulu link will be familiar with the problem, with an aggravating message that pops up informing users that the selected clip “is not available in your region or country.”

Viewers are of course more than welcome to try to find the desired clips on the website of whichever Canadian network owns rights to certain series, but the headache of matching up the program to the broadcaster, only to then attempt navigating oft-confusing websites, can be more trouble than it’s worth…which is exactly why Hulu exists, as it compiles all the best clips and shows in one convenient place.

So where does this leave Canadian viewers who might want to check out any of Hulu’s new programming? On the wrong side of the law, basically. You can either search for the episodes on illegal file-sharing websites, or—as some Canadian websites have already pointed out—you can sign up for a VPN service that masks your computer’s location, tricking Hulu into thinking you are actually located in the United States, allowing otherwise blocked content to flow freely.

But curious Canadian TV fans shouldn’t have to resort to subverting the system just to get a glimpse of Seth Myers and co. After all, if we can have a Tim Hortons TV channel, surely there is a way to get Hulu legally streaming on this side of the border.




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Hulu takes aim at Netflix, leaving Canadians sidelined

  1. Of course the law shouldn’t stand in the way of Canadians accessing better streaming services. But that would require that we essentially abandon all Canadian content laws, and God knows we can’t do that because then Canadian producers would have to compete with producers from the rest of the globe. And we can’t have that because Canadian productions are just so essential to our Canadian identity that we would all become just like Americans over night if the government weren’t trying to jam crappy Canadian content down our throats.

    • Agreed, forcing crappy content and high prices is what CRTC cartel is all about.

      But enough people are not willing to demand Ottawa change its ways. Be it beef, cheese or media, we are a cartel price fixed tax greedy economy of high prices. Governemtn manages us like slaves. Or representatives don’t represent us, they represent the back room managing us.

      Yes, I just said we have far more government than is good for us. Lobby buy a politician goes a lot further than a vote.

    • Has nothing to do with that and everything to do with an archaic broadcast rights system that still operates under the principle that you need have a local presence to broadcast because the Entertainment industry doesn’t change anything until the house is falling down around them.

      Soon as someone in the US decides the Canadian Broadcast rights are worth owning for their own content, the geoblocks are going to start falling like dominoes, the sub licensing is going to stop, and CTV + Global are going to have hours of dead air to fill with… god knows what. Their programmers might actually have to work for once.

      And, short of a Great Firewall of Canada, there’s nothing the CRTC can do to stop it.

      • That’s exactly it! Look when they wanted to syndicate FlashPoint in the US. NBC put up all sorts of restrictions so we couldn’t see it before them. So we ended up waiting almost a year to see the 3rd season I think it was, before they ironed out all the contracts, and CTV bowed to NBC and their demands. Also, the government hands their greasy claws hooked into our broadcasting, so that is probably why it is as bad as it is…

    • You are wrong, and Random_Output is right.

      Aside from Random’s point about U.S. networks wising up to Canadian territorial rights, I have worked in entertainment 20 years and feel that Canadian TV is weak because the Can Con rules are not strong enough. The argument you — and Maclean’s — use about the market always conveniently ignores the music industry, which punches waaaay above its weight globally, thanks to Can Con.

      In the past decade, there have been years where the Barenaked Ladies, Alanis Morisette, Shania Twain, Celine Dion and Avril Lavigne were the biggest selling artists IN THE WORLD, and none (except maybe Celine) would have seen the light of day without content regulation.

      We also, IMO, need to fire about 70% of the “producers” and middle management at the CBC, because they water down everything they touch and cost a ton in benefits. Free up the money for production and program truly creator-driven experimental shows, which is how we got legends like SCTV and Kids In The Hall.

    • Yeah god forbid makers of bad T.V. content had to compete on a global level. Our Canadian identity isn’t defined by awful shows that nobody watches.

  2. Yep, the CRTC cartel will not allow it. We are slaves of state so unless the cartel gets a take and can censor content we can’t see it.

    But we are controlled like government chickens. CRTC working to control us. Don’t underestimate CRTC malfeasances here as I am sure broadcaster in Hula would be happy of Canadians watched the content. The real issue is CRTC cartel companies and price fixing Canadian media and content.

    No reason Canadians can’t use Hula or the far better USA Netflix….its all politics of the CRTC cartel.

    • “I am sure broadcaster in Hula would be happy of Canadians watched the content.”
      – without paying? What are you smoking?

  3. Even if you find the show you want to watch on a Canadian network’s web stream, you’ll often find that the Canadian networks have websites that don’t work very well. I broke down and spoofed my IP so I could stream directly from ABC last night after trying (and failing) to watch a CTV-carried show on Google Chrome. Their site claimed that I was using the ‘wrong’ Flash plugin. I followed their directions for enabling the ‘correct’ Flash plugin, with no luck. Then I made uninstalled/reinstalled the flash plugin, just to make sure it was up-to-date and working correctly. No sir. It was just a brutal half-hour of frustration, trying to deal with and work around CTV’s poor streaming service.

    Despite what some people might claim, this has nothing to do with Canadian content laws and everything to do with lax Canadian corporations not bothering to look out for their client’s (or potential client’s) best interests.

    • Flash has become less widely supported of late. Under linux for sure new versions are no longer released and it’s starting to make an array of websites that are requesting an ‘up to date’ version of flash to not work properly. The transition to active content coming via html 5 cannot come soon enough :)

      • Flash is pretty much obsolete. Bring on HTML5!!

  4. Hey, here’s an idea, Comedy Network, CBC and CTV! How about making websites that are easier to navigate and find the shows we want to watch from you? Or maybe making the streaming of the shows a little less bug-free (eg., when the show has loaded up the buffer as shown on your buffer bar, when I back up in the program, I’d like to NOT wait 5 minutes for the stream to rebuffer? Maybe?) Then maybe it would be less about the tears of frustration, and more about enjoying shows that you guys offer? Maybe? Kthxbye!

  5. You don’t have to sign up to a VPN service – just install MediaHint (plugin for Firefox and Chrome) and you can access Hulu, BBC iPlayer, etc, directly from your computer.

  6. The Canadian cable companies and broadcasters need to recognize… they are only a firign conduit. Get out of the way and stop being leaches.

  7. The worst part is Hulu is actually a pretty good service (Thanks, Hotspot Shield). I don’t know who are the bigger idiots, the haters who clearly don’t know what they’re missing or the people running Hulu. (Trick question: it’s the former)
    Seriously, Internet, stop geo-blocking Canadians; we’ve done nothing wrong.

  8. VPNs are not illegal. What’s the wrong side of the law in this case?

  9. The thing that always puzzles me about the outcry about Hulu’s availability in Canada is this:

    Why are we waiting for Americans to clue in that they can make more money off of us? We HAVE the talent here in Canada to make a similar (or even better!) service. One that has Canadian Content, and more from Britain/Europe, as well as the American shows.

    There’s obviously a tremendous demand for it, so some enterprising Canadian could make a great deal of money. :)

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