The internet is a great place to catch TV shows and clips that you or your PVR missed.
Unfortunately, a lot of websites only allow their video content to be viewed in their service area. Some content is only available directly from cable distributor or certain directtv packages. It’s not because they’re mean, it’s for legal and cost savings reasons.
That’s right, it’s expensive to stream video over the internet to thousands or hundreds of thousands of people in a reliable way. You need a lot of servers and bandwidth, both of which are expensive, especially in large quantities. If a broadcaster only services one country, they’re not likely going to speed money to reach customers outside of their service area, although they may allow it if there are no legal restrictions and the advertisers are willing to pay to reach those users.
Secondly, they may not be legally allowed to broadcast outside of their broadcast area. Broadcasters buy distribution rights for the shows and other content that they air. These distribution rights are usually sold by country. That means a broadcaster who airs a show in the US is not allowed to distribute that show over the internet to another country since they have not bought the distribution rights required to broadcast in that country. In fact, another broadcaster in that country likely has paid for the rights to broadcast that same show there.
There are also legal agreements with members of various guilds and unions that may prevent content from being distributed in certain areas or for a finite time after the original air date.
Broadcasters can identify which country you’re in when you access their website. They use various methods to determine your location, but the most popular is something called Geo-IP look up. Basically, when you navigate to their website, the network address of your computer is sent to the web server. They can look up that address in a database to see the country that address is registered to. This method is accurate most of the time and in some cases they can actually narrow down the part the city that you live in.
Although there may be legal and ethical issues with it, there are ways to circumvent some of the methods that are used, potentially allowing you to view content from outside their intended region of distribution. These methods may be illegal in your country, so verify the legality of doing this before attempting them.
I think there is at least one ethical use for circumventing regional lockouts. For example, I was in Canada a couple weeks ago and I wanted to catch up on one of my favorite shows. I normally watch the show on network TV and all of the advertising is relevant to me. I wasn’t able to watch videos on the broadcaster’s website from Canada, so I employed the following method to make it work:
- Install this Firefox plugin: http://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/967 (requires Firefox browser)
- In Firefox, Go to “tools” > “modify headers”
- From the drop down box on the left select add
- Then enter: “X-Forwarded-For” in the first input box without the quotation marks
- Enter one of the following IP addresses in the second input box without the quotation marks (choose the country where the content is accessible from)
USA – 188.8.131.52
Canada – 184.108.40.206
UK – 220.127.116.11
- Leave the last input box empty, save the filter, and enable it (should look like this: http://imgur.com/Feb4.png )
- Click the “Configuration” button on the bottom right then proceed to check the “always on” button.
- Close the Modify Headers box, restart the Firefox browser and visit the intended website.
I should note some websites that the above method does not work for:
- cwtv.com (the CW)
- sho.com (showtime)
There are at least four times that many sites that DO work, although I’d rather not single them out for legal reasons. There are also a few other methods, but this is by far the easiest to setup and use. If you have IP addresses for other countries, let me know and I’ll add them.
Also, it takes a lot of people and money to make these great shows, be sure to support them by purchasing them when they come out on disc and renting them from iTunes, Netflix, etc.