Back to my point, though, about the TV. It has actually been a gift to this family that television has been subtracted from the equation. It makes me incredibly happy to cut off the children's non-stop stream of available cartoons and kids' shows 24 hours a day that used to be available to them via the DVR and glut of satellite-TV channels. Sure, I impose time limits like everyone else, but it was a constant fight for their attention. They are better children for it, more involved with me, my husband, their friends, the computer, and the Wii. (Hey, I'm not going to be raising any Luddites in this family!)
Of course when I say 'gift to the family,' I don't actually include myself in that. I am way too immersed in popular culture to just turn my back on all my favorite shows! You are talking to a woman who has been a loyal subscriber of Entertainment Weekly for the last 13 years and still reads it front to back every week, after all! What would happen if I just up and decided that I didn't need to know what happens to our band of castaways/survivors on Lost? Could I survive without the joyous weekly sing-a-longs of Glee? Would I wither away into the autumn woodlands of the ancient forests here without knowing the pleasures of Modern Family or the intrigue of Flash Forward? And God forbid this move get in the way of me living, dying, and living again with the carnal pleasure that is watching True Blood.
So imagine my surprise when I hopped over to CBS.com and found this message, "The video you requested is not available for your geographic region." What the hell? Why does CBS care whether or not I am watching their show here or back home or wherever, right? (Alright, fine, I understand that they have distribution deals with other countries, but how many people really care enough to seek out the shows to watch online at their site?)
So I did what any red-blooded American would do in this situation: I Googled it.
It turns out that there are a few ways to get around the problem, depending on how crafty you want to get. The easiest, highest quality and most expensive option is to buy the content you want to watch on iTunes and then download it to your computer. But 1.) I'm not made of money and 2.) My hard drive is already teetering on the brink of spilling out onto my desk it is so freaking full. So, that's not going to work unless we win the EuroMillions jackpot.
So I headed back to Google and did a search on: "streaming Glee tv" which turned up several online services (surfthechannel.com, yidio.com) that point you to another site that is streaming that content. Because they are not actually streaming the copyrighted video, they are legally OK. But some of the sites you get shunted to have terrible quality video, are obviously illegal, and still charge you if you want to watch more than 72 minutes of TV a day (I'm talking to you, Megavideo.com). And Hulu.com is, uh-oh!, geo-locked like the network sites. Boo!!!
Next I did a search that turned up thisword: VPN. Hmmm. I knew this word, but couldn't quite remember what it stood for. I looked it up on Wikipedia and, voilá, there was the answer! It stands for Virtual Private Network and it allows a person anywhere in the world to connect to a host server in the US (or anywhere else in the world) and assume the IP address of that server. Essentially, as soon as you connect to a VPN, it hides your IP address and you assume the new address. And with the new IP address that is located in the US, one can then connect to hulu.com, ABC, CBS, NBC, you name it, and watch their video content. :) Success!
I have a feeling there are some
Which brings me to a company I found called HideIPVPN. Not only do they offer the service of hosting IP servers in the US and the UK, they offer a program to bloggers (disclosure alert!) to get free VPN services for a year if they write a review of their services. So....
I was given a 3-day free trial to get a taste of what American TV is like when accessed from an ocean away. The set-up was a little tricky at first. They sent me a link to a tutorial that would set up the VPN as an application, but when that didn't work, the support person told me to use the PPTP way to connect. I said, "Uh.... what is a PPTP?" and he sent me more directions that I got one step wrong in the process and couldn't figure out what I'd done wrong until that same very-quick-to-respond tech person helped me sort it out via email. The setup, once I realized where I had made the mistake was really kind of ridiculously easy on my Mac and when I was done I just connected to the US server it was done.
I was able to immediately connect to Hulu.com and stream the premiere of Flash Forward (you know, the one from three weeks ago). I was instantly hooked and was pretty frustrated with the slow connection, but realized that if I put the player on pause and left it for a few minutes it will build up a buffer of video to compensate for the slower speed. I am not sure, because of my short window of use, whether my connection speeds were questionable while using the HideIPPVN because of their server or because it was Friday night and everyone in the UK was accessing it to get their hulu on. Of the six or so shows that I saw while using their server, I only watched one show on Sunday that seemed to be able to stream in perfect time with the video. It was, frankly, annoying. But that trick of just letting it sit and download enough video to stay ahead of you worked well, so it wasn't the end of the world.
The company gives away 100 monthly memberships to their service a month (but they apparently are all spoken for within the first hour of release) and offers "premium" accounts for $9.99/month. I am incredibly
Given the options, I think a VPN makes a lot of sense. It isn't perfect, but short of paying out big bucks for iTunes, it seems to be the most legal option out there if you are living overseas and want to stay on top of American television programming.
I will willingly watch whatever commercials ABC, NBC, HULU.com and any other legal site throw in my way, if it will make them continue to offer their programming online. :)