Blog Post

How to Watch Hulu Around the World

Updated: For all sorts of complicated legal and contractual reasons, Hulu is not officially available to users outside of the United States. However, funny thing about the web — geographic restrictions have a way of being difficult to enforce.

And so it was with some delight that I noticed in a postscript about Hulu adding classic ’90s sitcom News Radio that a friend in Canada was suggesting an easy solution to watching Hulu north of the border: a free VPN service called Hotspot Shield.

I’ve certainly jumped through plenty of hoops in order to access the BBC’s iPlayer, which is similarly restricted to users outside of the UK. And an email to another friend who resides in London turned up confirmation that Canadians aren’t alone in using Hotspot Shield to access Hulu, as he’d heard reports of the same workaround.

How does it work? Well, VPN stands for “virtual private network,” so when Hotspot Shield is turned on your web connection is encrypted. More importantly, it also replaces your IP address with one from Hotspot Shield, which is based in the U.S. The idea is to protect your browsing from online snoops, but this little side effect means that as far as Hulu knows, you’re as American as apple pie and worthless subprime mortgages.

All you have to do is download the client, which works for both PCs and Macs, and you’re ready to go. It’s a lot less complicated and appears much more reliable than relying on proxy servers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the other way around.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical when News Corp. (s nws) and NBC Universal (s ge) announced their online video joint venture eventually named Hulu. Now, I couldn’t be more of a fan — it’s easy to find great movies and television shows, which are offered in relatively high quality, and I can easily share my finds with friends through links and embedded clips.

So why isn’t the service being offered to viewers worldwide? Because of legacy distribution agreements between companies like NBC and international networks. Canadian and British broadcasters pay good money for the regional rights to popular shows, often airing them months after they’ve been broadcast in the U.S. Naturally, they wouldn’t be too keen on viewers visiting Hulu instead.

But viewers are already closing those gaps in time and space by downloading shows from torrent links on sites like The Pirate Bay and Mininova. Wouldn’t it be in the best interests of networks to offer them a slick, easy-to-use product they can advertise against rather then ceding the market to less official means of distribution? And couldn’t they locally target those ads, even allowing current regional distribution partners to resell the inventory to local companies?

Dunno. I’m no media executive. What I do know is that if you’re outside the U.S., Hotspot Shield will get my embed of The Last Days of Disco above working fine. The movie isn’t even available on DVD thanks to (you guessed it) rights issues, so enjoy it while you can. Update: That didn’t last long; Hulu is now blocking Hotspot Shield users. Check out the full story.

48 Responses to “How to Watch Hulu Around the World”

  1. solution dude

    Another solution:
    Rent a VPS in US (Virtual Private Server) & build your own VPN for $20 a month (from linode etc..) but you need linux/unix knowledge to do the setup. or ask a linux geek friend that you trust (many of them already rent a vps for hobby). you might get it for free from him/her :o)

  2. Hey everybody! Im Patrick, and I am obviously American. I like to tell other people off for trying to suck the great white milk that is American TV Shows. I don’t care that they want to watch it, as obviously I am american and don’t give a shit about other people. I think making sarcastic posts on blogs telling people to stop trying to watch MY AMERCAN videos is cool. Also, I am George Bush.

  3. Johnny Dunk

    hotspot doesn’t work anymore
    hotspot doesn’t work anymore
    hotspot doesn’t work anymore
    hotspot doesn’t work anymore
    hotspot doesn’t work anymore
    hotspot doesn’t work anymore
    hotspot doesn’t work anymore
    hotspot doesn’t work anymore

    hope that gets the message across

  4. Whoelleback

    I don’t trust some of the comments here, they seem to come from either HotSpot oder ad companies… Fact is, HotSpot does NOT work for watching Hulu in Germany (July 09).

  5. purity

    I’ve been using the HotSpot Shield for a few months now to watch Hulu.

    However, just now (June 24 2009) Hulu has caught on to me and can ‘tell’ I’m using a proxy to view shows.

    BASTARDS WON’T LET ME IN!!

    I haven’t read all the posts above…….but I’m hoping someone has a fix for this…..

  6. A lot of users experience problems with the free hotshield vpn. I’m one of those users, when I started my travels around asia I found very soon that I was very much addicted to my american tv shows.

    So I went and created my own VPN service so I could always make sure there was enough bandwidth to go around.

    The fee is small, to cover the cost of the servers and bandwidth at only 5$/month. You can go to http://www.hidemynet.com to get signed up today. Activation is instant, so if you found this posting looking for a way to watch hulu videos at this very second, you can.

  7. patricksoon

    I live in Canada and am able to access Hulu videos. Hotspot Shield has now switched most of their servers to White Plains, NY (instead of Englewood, Colorado). After deleting all cookies in the relevant browser, restart HSS to watch Hulu again. Proxy detection works mostly through downloaded cookies. Without them, non-US users can still view Hulu content. Read the entire method here.

  8. I rent a VPN for £6.30 from UKiVPN that gives me access to UK, Canada and the US. I can access BBC, ITV, CH4, Hulu, Zattoo, etc. It actually works properly (no jerky feeds, no constant rebuferring). It uses the PC/Mac or iPhone’s native VPN client and streams without jerkiness or rebuferring. Even works over 3G if you have a decent signal.

  9. I just tried it and indeed it works, my address shows as a US one when the program is active. Hulu videos that refused to play now start OK, but you need to give it some time to buffer as the connection is obviously not as fast as a direct connection to the net.

  10. Worked great for a day. Then it seems Hulu is on to the site. They now post a message saying I”m using an anonymous proxy tool and cannot access content. How sad.

  11. Forget about Hulu (though I have Hotspot Shield installed to get around PBS.org’s equally stupid regional restrictions), how does a Canadian/North American get at that iPlayer sweetness?

  12. christopher grams

    I used to use HotSpot Shield for Hulu so I could watch Daily Show episodes and clips. But I found it jerky sometimes, although other times it was fine. I tried another program called UltraSurf, which updates it’s proxy list often and lets me watch both Daily Show and Colbert Report episodes in full from the Comedy Central website.
    However, I believe Hulu have upped their game and started blocking certain proxy servers, so I would recommend installing both and switching between the two, whilst checking for updates to the programs regularly.

  13. Funtomas

    Well, I tried the Hotspot Shield a while ago but didn’t find it much useful. VPN topology is based on a central server through which all data is transfered. It’s obvious, such a solution poses a bottleneck which has not been designed with media streaming in mind. A video played through HotSpot Shield is rather jerky but still better than nothing.