If you enjoy streaming on-demand video content over the web, you may have picked up on Hulu's recent move to crack down on those attempting to access the service from outside the US. How does the move affect Hulu users in Australia, and what can you do get around Hulu's stricter geoblocking measures? Read on to find out.
First up, some basics for those new to the world of online content streaming. Hulu, like well known streaming rival Netflix, offers on-demand video delivered over the web to PCs, mobile devices, games consoles and the like.
You pay a monthly fee, and in return get movies, TV shows, documentaries and more – including some content available to Hulu users only – whenever you feel the need for an entertainment fix.
Strictly speaking Hulu is only available in the US, but the ever-resourceful online community has found any number of ways to “cheat the system” without technically breaking any laws.
The most common approach is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that is located in the US. Hulu sees only the location of the VPN, not your own, and thinks everything is above board.
Problem is, that's now changed. Since the end of April subscribers in Australia have been denied access by Hulu's beefed up geoblocking tools, and when attempting to sign in have been greeted by the following message:
“Based on your IP address, we noticed you are trying to access Hulu through an anonymous proxy tool. Hulu is not currently available outside the US. If you’re in the US, you’ll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.”
So why the change, and why now? At this point, it's not 100% certain. It could simply be the latest move aimed at curbing online piracy, while it could also be a technical step towards the holy grail of Hulu finally launching a full service in Australia.
Chance would be a fine thing, but in the meantime it essentially doesn't matter: VPN is no longer an option for accessing Hulu from an IP address located in Australia.
So what now? The good news is you can get around these restrictions. VPN web addresses are geo-blocked on a case-by-case basis, and torrent sites and other ingenious online types are constantly setting up new ones to stay ahead of the game.
There are other options too, including using web browser extensions like Hola Unblocker or signing up to a third party content unblocking service. The fact is the picture surrounding online streaming and geo-blocking is constantly changing. Your best bet is to search for the most up-to-date picture of what your options are and what they entail.
And that's a good thing. Online video streaming is one of the most lucrative and rapidly growing digital industries around, and though it may be hard to believe, services like Hulu are actually on your side.
They'd love nothing more than to open the door to legitimate international subscribers and rake in the extra cash that would bring. The problem, as ever, is the content itself and the maze of international rights agreements that fuel annoying DRM measures and geo-blocking tools.
In the end, though, the very fact that the current status quo is leaving millions of Australian consumer dollars unspent every month guarantees it's just a matter of time before these issues are resolved. Of course, then we'll no doubt have the dreaded “Australia tax” to complain about.