Vongo, the newly-announced downloadable video service from Starz Entertainment (a unit of John Malone’s Liberty Media), sounds like a pretty cool idea — it would let you download Hollywood movies, concerts, TV shows and other content to various devices, including portable video players (although maybe not iPods, according to the New York Times).

There’s just one problem — at least for someone like me, who happens to live in the Great White North (i.e., Canada). Vongo is restricted to U.S. residents. Here’s what I got when I went to the webpage: “You need to be in the United States to view this site.” On a somewhat redundant note, under the heading of Minimum System Requirements, the only requirement is that you be “located in the U.S.”

I know there are probably all kinds of perfectly reasonable legal requirements for that kind of thing, but I have to confess that it still pisses me off — or maybe it’s just the suggestion that living anywhere other than the U.S. constitutes a “geographic failure.”



As you can see if you read the comments, someone from Starz responded to this post within about an hour of it going up, which I have to say is pretty good, considering I don’t get a lot of traffic. Alesya Holick said the U.S.-only requirement is necessary because the company only has the U.S. distribution rights for the content it will be distributing (which is pretty much what I figured), and that Starz would change the description on the website to make that more clear — and remove that nasty “geographic failure” part.

Nice to see a company responding so quickly to a post by a puny little Canadian blogger like me.

Update 2:

Rafat over at PaidContent notes that the Vongo terms of service carry a number of restrictions — which makes Thomas Hawk wonder why anyone would want to use it instead of just recording or torrenting whatever they want to watch. A fair point.

Update 3:

As the latest comment on this item shows, Vongo hasn’t changed the page that first comes up when you hit the site, so top marks for quick response to my blog, but subtract all those and more for not doing anything about it.

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Mathew 2430 posts

I'm a Toronto-based senior writer with Fortune magazine, and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

9 Responses to “Vongo to Canada: get lost (updated)”
  1. + Discussion: entertainment.tv.yahoo.com, PaidContent.org,mathewingram.com/work, Mobile Analyst Watch, New York Times and Lost Remote TV Blog

  2. We want to let you know that it is not that we are ignoring our Canadian neighbors, it’s that our studio agreements for the movie rights limit us to the US only. But thank you for pointing that out in our FAQ area, we will amend it so that this is explained more clearly.


    I LOVE IT! What a perfect, succint, profoundly American “Up Yours”. And what a great example of why US businesses operating internationally via remote control from the States tend to fail so dismally. Travelocity is still on my Christmas card list for that one…

    I totally get the clearances or licensing issue (which this must be), but MAN. And Maffei should know better too, to boot. Tsk tsk.

    But good on Liberty’s PR department / agency for tracking this and posting. Now, just get the copy fixed, kids. Pronto. Serves you right for writing a spec that left the developers to come up with something themselves :-)

    Thanks for sharing, Mathew!

    – Stuart

  4. Thanks for responding so quickly, Alesya. I understand the licensing
    problem, and I know there’s probably not a lot that Starz can do about it
    — I guess it was the “geographic failure” part that really got to
    me… we Canadians are sensitive :-)

    And Stuart, I guess it’s one thumb up and one thumb down for Starz — a
    thumb down for being U.S.-centric, but a thumb up for responding so
    quickly to a little blogger like me.

  5. Looks like they’ve killed the offending page, too. When you enter Vongo.com, it seems they’ve redirected inbound Canadian IPs to the Starz homepage. I can’t seem to go any further, but still better and done quickly, too. Nice work, Alesya…if you were in my PR department you’d be getting an “atta boy” for sure.

    – Stuart

  6. The offending page was NOT killed. I just saw it too, and googled. And found you.

    What an incredibly AMERICAN thing to do. No wonder everyone, and I mean everyone worldwide, hates them.

  7. Heyas

    After viewing a commercial about this service, I though, yeah baby!
    If I had a library of unlimited content at my disposal, I’d never leave the house again ;-)
    So with that thought in mind, I tap out Vongo’s site, and to my amazement, they give me the geographic heave ho. Sheash guys have a heart, eh!

    But seriously I’m getting used to this, if you go to showtime’s web site for new show info, you get the same treatment. Fortunately, you can use an anonymous surf client to get past their Canuck scanner, and all their info is at your fingertips :-)

  8. […] Postscript from Gary: Danny is right. It would be nice if, at the least, Vongo and other “U.S. only services” like MovieLink, would offer some info about their service to those visiting their sites from outside the U.S. PaidContent’s Staci Kramer, who also has a great post about Vongo, told me that Starz, the owner of Vongo, does not have distribution rights outside the U.S. “If they couldn’t promise geo-coding, the service wouldn’t be live,” she told me. Staci also pointed out this post that includes a reply from Vongo about the organizatioin of the way the site is organized soon so those outside the U.S. can at least learn about the service. […]

  9. I agree,that there are a great many laws on broadcasting,yet the chinese on the other side of the world are providing what the US waves under our noses,but plays keep away,they drag us to war,involve us in their world police contravercies yet were not good enough to share,their intertainment. To add insult to injury they tell us how ill placed we and the rest of the world are ill placed geographicaly,thanks US,but last time I checked we belonged to north-america just like you,stop using us as a side kick..I’m insulted but not surprised. God bless Canada.(the real home of the free.)

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