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DITCH YOUR TV
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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 minimal advertising.

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 virtual borders.

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