BlogTv is cool — except for the bars on the door

There’s been a bunch written about BlogTv over the past few days — including at Mashable and Jeff Pulver’s site — in part because the company has been at the Supernova conference in the Valley. BlogTv does streaming video and allows users to create their own “TV shows,” much like Ustream.tv and Stickam.com, and lots of people seem to think that it’s a great thing, etc. etc.

snipshot_e4vw9oglksv.jpgSounds pretty good so far, right? But if you happen to be north of the 49th parallel, as I am, when you click on BlogTv.com you go to BlogTv.ca instead. Some other sites do this too — it’s a redirect based on where your IP address is coming from. Google does it too, but allows you to click and go to Google.com if you wish. BlogTv.ca doesn’t do that. Why? Because BlogTv.ca — which was created by Alliance Atlantis, a large media and entertainment conglomerate that just got bought by another large media conglomerate — licensed the platform from an Israeli company called Tapuz, and it is only open to Canadians. As a result, BlogTv.com content is blocked from Canadians.

Am I the only one who thinks that this sucks? (apparently not — Robert Sanzalone thinks it does too, and so does Global Nerdy). Call me crazy, but I think video-sharing works best when it’s open to anyone from anywhere, and I said exactly that on my Globe and Mail blog when I reviewed BlogTv.ca after it launched its beta. YouTube doesn’t have a U.S. version that is blocked from Canadians or anyone else for that matter, do they?

Alliance Atlantis tries to make the fact that BlogTv.ca is restricted to Canadians into a feature rather than a bug — it’s a “community” designed just for Canucks, they say. No offence to the bright minds at Alliance Atlantis, but that’s a load of bollocks. It’s geo-gating, and it’s dumb.

19 thoughts on “BlogTv is cool — except for the bars on the door

  1. I have no idea, but Blog.TV may be blocked to Canadians because we don’t have the third-party contributed IP infringing content safe harbour laws that they have in the US. It may be that Alliance, a Canadian co, may be concerned about liability for infringing content if they display their US content in Canada. Just spitballing, but I wonder.

  2. But Alliance Atlantis doesn’t have anything to do with BlogTv.com. It’s controlled by the team behind Tapuz, the Israeli company that licensed the platform to Alliance for Canadian use only.

  3. I’m with you on this I think it sucks. The thing about online communities is precisely that geography becomes irrelevent. This sounds to me like yet another large incumbent trying to “own” a community. They would be wiser to just host it and let the community own itself. Blog.tv is very cool and you deserve the right to watch it from wherever you are.

  4. Matthew, I think you are being ideological, and not completely open to new ways of constructing Internet services and delivering content. The fact that blogtv.ca is only available to Canadian broadcasters has been a positive. It’s created a distinct Canadian user base, one that is very Canada proud. Recorded shows can be posted anywhere on the Internet; and this is no different from YouTube or other uploading sites. It’s the live and interactive elements that are restricted to Canada. And this, my friend, has been a good way to create a Canadian-based community of users. It’s a novel way of competing against the Americans. And it works.

  5. Claude, I think it’s ironic that you’re criticizing me for not being open, when it’s BlogTv.ca that is closed. I may be ideological, but at least the ideology I favour is one of openness.

    I don’t see how creating a Canadian ghetto helps anyone, really — nor is it competing with the Americans, as you suggest. In fact, it’s opting out of the competition.

    And even if having BlogTv.ca restricted to Canadians is a positive (which it isn’t), why does that mean that I and other Canadians are restricted from seeing BlogTv.com content as well? The whole model is flawed.

  6. I don’t agree. The Americans are restricting content and applications to the world in many instances. Video is routinely blocked from ABC.com, CBS.com, NBC.com, in order to protect an orderly rights market for rich media. Whole sites are blocked in the U.S., such as Showtime.com and TurboNick. In fact, what we are doing is adopting similar techniques to compete with the Americans.

    We have not created a Canadian ghetto. We have created a community of Canadian users, and all users can post their content around the world wide web. So, it’s straddling both geo-blocking on live interactive, and www. distribution.

    It’s novel, innovative, and working.

  7. I’m glad you like the photo, Claude — it changes every time you load the page, so the next time you come it will be something completely different.

    As for BlogTv.ca “competing” with the U.S. by using the same geo-blocking techniques, you’re comparing apples and oranges (not to mention twisting the meaning of the word “competing”).

    The U.S. blocks Canadians from watching CBS and NBC programming because Canadian broadcasters haven’t bought the online rights for that content. Blocking user-generated content to which the owner has the rights makes no sense whatsoever, IMO.

  8. Actually the clearance of U.S. shows online in Canada and in other foreign territories is more complicated than just paying a fee.

    We are actually competing against the Americans in Canada. It’s U.S. services that are sucking tons of engagement from Canadians (and loss economic opportunity) into their services. In most cases, this is just bonusing their traffic; but it’s still a sucking sound.

    And it’s very significant. YouTube does over 10M uniques per month in Canada; Facebook over 7M; and MySpace over 5M uniques.

    The challenge Canada has in this space is open access from the Americans inside our territory; sharing the English language; and sharing the same time zone with the U.S. As a consequence, U.S. services can, in effect, dump their services inside Canada. As they are better capitalized than Canadian services, we need novel techniques to compete in our own territory.

    What you are not seeing is that the Internet is not just the http://www.; it is also domestic users and domestic advertising markets.

    What’s we’ve done with blogtv.ca is geo-block, and geo-target with ads inside world networks, and encouraged Canadians to come into a Canadian network. This is not only highly novel, and innovative, it’s working.

    It’s this little piece of innovation you are missing.

    And finally, we are not blocking users from distributing their content. If they record a show, then can post it anywhere.

    We are also managing our bandwidth and the community of users by geo-locating all this inside Canada. That’s cost efficient, and, in the case of users, greating a valuable community. At blogtv.ca, Canadians, in a live context, are not lost in a sea of U.S. users. That’s valuable, and it’s appreciated.

    On the strategy side, it’s positive because we’ve figured out a way to compete against the Americans on our own turf (rather than just accept they they are “better”), and we are providing a Canadian only live advertising and marketing opportunity for Canadian advertisers.

    No one has done this yet. And I think it’s a very novel and innovative way for dealing with a unique geo-economic problem facing Canadian Internet services.

  9. Mathew – didn’t realize that – my bad.

    Wish I could add to blogtv.ca discussion, but I’ve only been once and didn’t stay – interface is a nightmare, IMO. And much better content on YT.

  10. “I’m glad you like the photo, Claude — it changes every time you load the page, so the next time you come it will be something completely different.

    As for BlogTv.ca “competing” with the U.S. by using the same geo-blocking techniques, you’re comparing apples and oranges (not to mention twisting the meaning of the word “competing”).

    The U.S. blocks Canadians from watching CBS and NBC programming because Canadian broadcasters haven’t bought the online rights for that content. Blocking user-generated content to which the owner has the rights makes no sense whatsoever, IMO.”

    I was under the impression it was the other way around…that Canadian broadcasters HAD bought the rights, and so they are obliged by the providing US Networks to block Canadian traffic so that the Canadian Sites (the CTY Broadband Network and Globals streming) can claim the Canadian viewers and any ad dollars that come with it.
    Now, that said, apples to oranges in my opinion. If you would like to set up a “Canadian” environmnet – great, I will wave the flag with the best of em. Canadian content can and will compete with content from anywhere. However, when I venture out onto the internet, I’m not sure if I want “just” a Canadian experience. Why can’t I see how Canadians stack up against the rest of the world? Yes, your advertisers will appreciate a targeted audience, but will the audience stick around long enough?

    Cheers,
    Brad

  11. As far as I’m aware, Brad, Canadian broadcasters buy the rights to regular TV and broadcast distribution of U.S. content — and so they do have an interest in not letting Canadian Web viewers watch or listen online, but they are not required to block that content.

    My understanding is that they have not seen fit to pay the licensing fees required by U.S. content creators to allow them to do Canadian Web broadcasting of that content — whether that’s because the fees are too high or because they are afraid Web viewing will cut into their existing business, I don’t know. I suspect a little bit of both.

  12. Except that they are streaming it on their websites – CTV and Global have extensive US Programming on their respective sites. If you were going to say to CBS “We’ll pay you $1million to have the Canadian rights to Survivor (or whatever the $ number is), that includes the right to stream it.” You would also have to imagine that if I’m GM Canada and I pay for ads during Survivor while it’s on the air, that I would probably like to have at least first refusal to the streaming version. Not to mention as well that Global (http://www.canada.com/globaltv/video/index.html you’ll have to trust me that they had more US shows during the fall/winte) and CTV are in much better positions to actually sell the online ads to Canadian companies vs the US networks selling geo-targeted ads on their sites.
    Again though, we’re talking millions of dollars in programming and ad revenues – not blogs. If you truly want to explode on the internet I do believe that you should lift the limitations. If you can make a profitable site with them, then hat’s off to you, but you can’t be the next YouTube or Google without being able to be seen by the whole world.
    Cheers
    Brad

  13. @claude – It’s not figuring ‘out a way to compete against the Americans on our own turf’ if all you do is restrict our access. But then again, the walled garden approach worked so well for AOL. And this bittorrent thing is just a fad.

  14. Geo fencing is a moot point. I just use an IP mask to visit sites when I find they are re-directing me. Try hidemyass.com

  15. I’ve tried those, Mike — and they work for the usual websites, but not for things like video streaming. Too much lag.

  16. Yes, I can see Ustream and Justin.tv and everyone else that does streaming, Shel — it’s only BlogTv that does geo-blocking.

    My understanding is that BlogTv.ca licensed the platform from Tapuz (which runs BlogTv.com), and one of the conditions of the licence was that it covered Canada only.

    I assume part of the deal was that BlogTv.com would redirect any Canadian visitors it gets to the Canadian version.

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