I'm on vacation right now in Germany, and I thought I could watch some American TV here on my PC. But I've learned that US sites consistently block their TV shows outside the US, a practice I find more than a bit curious. I tried the network sites. I tried alternative sites like Hulu.com, but all the shows I wanted to watch are blocked. It seems my only recourse is YouTube. Unfortunately, it has low quality (often illegal) copies.
When you log onto the internet, whether you realize it or not, your browser broadcasts your IP address, which provides the general area where you are located. Using this information, a site, if it so chooses, can present you with information in the language of the country of origin and to serve up ads for that county. I discovered that Google, for instance, is presenting me results with German sites at the top of the results list because my IP address is pointing to Germany right now. It seems logical, but for someone like me who just happens to be in Germany, it's annoying, especially so when the IP detection blocks content I want to see.
It got me thinking about the rationale behind blocking access to shows on these sites. To me, it makes little sense and actually encourages piracy because US shows are popular outside the country. If people want to watch them, chances are they are going to find a way and that way probably involves watching an illegal copy of the show.
My wife has a theory that it has to do with bandwidth issues, that the networks are willing to broadcast to the country of origin, but not the entire world, but I'm not sure that opening it up would increase the audience so much that it would flood the network servers or that they couldn't find ways to handle the additional traffic. What's more, it would give them more eyeballs on the sites, which translates into more advertising dollars, the goal of putting content on the internet in the first place.
On the other hand, I don't have a great alternative theory to offer you unless you figure stupidity, which is always a good bet where US companies and the internet are concerned. But even that theory falls apart because I've tried accessing German video from the US and been blocked in a similar fashion.
When I complained about this on Twitter, one of my friends suggested that I use a proxy server to fool the site into thinking my address is actually originating in the US instead of Europe, but when I tried to set this up using FoxyProxy, I didn't have a lot of luck. Truth be told, I'm on vacation and having access to my US shows is not that big a priority that I feel compelled to try all that hard to figure it out, but I'm a bit frustrated that the technology is there, but something (probably misplaced ideas about copyright laws) is preventing me from doing something on the open internet.
I'm sure I can live without the shows while I'm away, but if I were living overseas for a while I would probably try to figure out a permanent work-around. For now, I'll remain curious as to why the networks feel compelled to block people from any set of IP addresses from viewing content on any site on the internet.