ART & CULTURE
DITCH YOUR TV
TV IS MOVING TO THE INTERNET AT A BLISTERING PACE, BUT CANADIAN BROADCASTERS AREN’T. DITCH YOUR TV
American entertainment companies were
also slow to move online – they didn’t want to see history repeat
itself à la the crumbling of the music industry at the hands of
Napster and Apple – but then came Hulu. Founded in part by NBC and
Fox, hulu.com is a one-stop shop for American network and cable
programming, free for everyone to stream 24/7 and supported with
Canadian networks, meanwhile, have
remained more timid than their American counterparts. The closest
service to Hulu that Canadians can access is Rogers On Demand. Any
Rogers Cable or Wireless subscriber can sign in, but they must live
in an area serviced by Rogers in order to watch most of the site’s
programming, thus cutting out everyone west of Ontario. Rogers also
faced criticism from users for offering skimpy content, though
they’ve recently added more shows to the site.
Canadian users can also buy some
programs via iTunes, though the selection pales in comparison to the
offerings from the US store. Additionally, they can go to specific TV
network sites, such as SPACE, CityTV and CTV, to watch their
programming, but in order to streamline their media consumption,
Canadians have to take a little initiative and move beyond their
Hulu is region-locked, meaning it
automatically detects and denies access if a user is outside of the
United States. Crafty users employ products such as Hotspot Shield
that mask their Canadian IP address to make it appear they’re
accessing the internet from the US, but Hulu is often able to block
the program. FoxyProxy, a set of proxy plug-ins for the Firefox
browser, can also be used to mask IP addresses, not only allowing
access to American TV online but also to the BBC iPlayer, a web-based
PVR chock full of the UK’s best programs.
Nonetheless, the easiest solution is to
simply throw caution to the wind and go to torrent sites such as
isoHunt and the notorious Pirate Bay. Is it legal? Probably not.
Almost effortless? Absolutely.
The same forces pushing “old” TV
online are also creating change from the bottom up. Sanctuary started
as a Vancouver-shot web series but quickly made the jump to the SyFy
network and SPACE. Pure Pwnage, a series centred on a video
game-playing loser, was recently picked up by Showcase, and online
cooking show sensation Bitchin’ Kitchen is now on the Food Network.
Hollywood alumni also took their work to the web during the Writers
Guild of America strike, most notably with their strike.tv video hub.
Kevin Pollack, Illeana Douglas and other Hollywood actors relish the
freedom of the medium and continue to create web video.
Waiting for Canadian broadcasters to
move online may soon become a moot point. Content creation tools are
in everyone’s hands, and Canadian web shows such as Tiki Bar TV, A
Comicbook Orange and Condition: Human are already bypassing
television to build huge international online audiences, thereby also
avoiding CRTC regulations or Byzantine funding.
By the time Canadian broadcasters fully
embrace digital media, their moment may have passed.
Words by: WARREN FREY
Illustration: by ZEMA