If you like satire and you don’t mind staying up late, you’re probably a fan of The Daily Show, that great showcase for the satirical jabs of Jon Stewart. If that’s the case, you might have been overjoyed to hear that Comedy Central (which is part of MTV, which in turn is part of Viacom) recently launched a website with 13,000 or so clips from the show, including some of the most-loved episodes.
Finally, you may have thought to yourself — after months of fighting with YouTube over clips from the show (which routinely appear and then are quickly removed), Viacom has decided that giving viewers what they want over the Internet is the right way to go. Bravo.
The only problem with that rosy little scenario is that Viacom’s largesse — like every other U.S. TV network that has decided to stream popular shows from their website — is completely unavailable to Canadian viewers (and to viewers in other countries as well). You can go to the website and click on a video, but you don’t get anything. To add insult to injury, the pre-roll advertising spot that Viacom has sold for the clip plays just fine, but is followed by a black screen — a screen that might as well say “Hey non-U.S. viewers — look at all the stuff you can’t watch.”
Why can’t you watch The Daily Show clips? The same reason you can’t watch an episode of Heroes on the website the day after it plays on TV, and the same reason you can’t download TV episodes from iTunes: Canadian networks like Global and CTV have paid for the right to broadcast those shows, and would no doubt raise a hue and cry if they were suddenly available for free on the Internet. That might destabilize the entire Canadian broadcasting business model, which relies on access to U.S. hits.
Update: On a more recent visit to The Daily Show website, I was automatically redirected to thecomedynetwork.ca, which carries episodes of the Comedy Central show in Canada (after a pseudo-friendly message popped up saying how “some jerk blocked ComedyCentral.com” and that this was a “load of crap,” but that clicking on the link would take you to The Comedy Network for all your favourites “and a whole whack of homegrown hilarity”).
You can watch some recent episodes of The Daily Show at the Canadian site, but there is only a small selection, in contrast to the complete show archive that is available at the U.S. site. I guess it’s better than a blank screen, but not by much.