Fox has started blocking access to its online episodes on Google TV devices this week, making it the fourth broadcast network to join the anti-Google TV front. However, we found that it’s easy to regain access to full episodes of Glee, Bones, House and other shows available on Fox.com. It’s safe to assume that Fox will soon tighten its measures to keep Google TV users out, but the glitch shows that the cat-and-mouse game with viewers trying to access web content on browser-based TV platforms will keep networks busy in the months to come.
First, here are the details: Play episodes on Fox.com with a Google TV unit, and the site will tell you that “[t]his content is not compatible with your device.” However, if you change the user agent (Menu button > More > Settings > Advanced > Mode > Generic), you’ll be able to access full episodes just fine. You may also be required to reboot after changing the user agent, and erasing any cookies might be a good idea as well.
Hulu.com and the websites of other broadcasters went through very much the same issues, prompting them to instead rely on Flash player authentication to verify the device. Fox will likely soon do the same, but that doesn’t mean the cat-and-mouse game is over just yet.
Inventive users and third-party programmers have in the past accessed Flash-free versions of content to circumvent device-specific restrictions and gain access to advanced features. For example, YouTube is offering its content as MP4 files to enable streaming to iPhones and iPads, but a number of applications also utilize these files for direct downloads. It’s only a matter of time until similar workarounds will pop up on Google TV.
In the end, the lesson of these skirmishes might be that the only way to make sure that content doesn’t show up on Google TV without the broadcasters permission is in fact to allow legitimate access.
Google TV exec Rishi Chandra told us at NewTeeVee Live yesterday that the platform offers content owners a number of ways to make that happen, but that it takes time for them to find the best way to deal with these challenges. “The web is a new technology…and the incumbents in the space are trying to figure out what that technology means for them,” he said.
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