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A Canadian Press (CP) story that has received wide circulation contained the following:

Canadians also can't use major U.S. TV network sites to watch shows online due to something called "geo-blocking," he said.

Media companies use this practice to determine a person's location based on where his computer is accessing the Internet.

"So if you are coming from Canada and try to go to ABC's website and you try to watch video there, it's going to say, `Sorry you're not coming from within the United States. You can't watch this.' "

It's usually done to save money because of the cost of streaming content over the Internet, Sawyer said.

While I did say that the cost of streaming is certainly a factor, I also said (and this is what's missing from the story) that:

  • media companies (Canadian, American and others) engage in geo-blocking to respect the licensing agreements that are in place that reflect real-world geographic boundaries
  • in the case where the right to do online distribution is not licensed by a broadcaster, broadcasters in other territories today still tend to respect the broadcast license arrangements that are in place and won't stream to other markets
  • to variable extents, the cost of streaming is subsidized through advertising dollars and advertisers have little interest in pay to reach out-of-market audiences
All of this is discussed in the full Changing Channels: Alternative Distribution of Television Content report that's referenced in the CP story.

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This page contains a single entry by Alan Sawyer published on July 6, 2008 8:58 AM.

Two Solitudes CRTC Study now available was the previous entry in this blog.

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