I was attempting to watch a YouTube video a friend posted on Facebook today; but since I was on my iPhone, I was instead served a message, ”The content owner has not made this content available on mobile.” I have the same problem on Hulu (Plus) on my iPad – videos are often marked ”Web Only,” which is Hulu’s way of saying they aren’t licensed for viewing on mobile devices. This is confusing to me; Shouldn’t content providers want me to watch their content, regardless of what device I’m using? They’re not going to make any money if I don’t view their content, or obtain it via unlicensed sources.
Quite a bit of Hulu’s content is available for free on a traditional computer; however, without a Hulu Plus subscription, none of that content is available on mobile devices such as the iPad. In and of itself, that’s an odd decision, since the free content is supplemented by ads on the PC, similar to broadcast (and most premium) content. But worse than that, even with a paid Hulu Plus subscription, some shows are still unavailable for viewing on mobile devices. And I’m not talking about premium content, at least in the traditional sense of HBO & Showtime. Shows from all major broadcast networks, including 30 Rock (NBC), Fringe (Fox), Happy Endings (ABC), and How I Met Your Mother (CBS) are all marked “Web Only” on the iPad, even with a paid Hulu Plus account. And rather than offer an option for a higher-tier ‘Super Hulu Plus’ subscription, or make those shows available for a small fee, you’re simply directed to watch it on a traditional computer, or not at all.
Sometimes when I run into one of these content-blocks, I just switch to my laptop, in which case the content owner gets their cut all the same. But sometimes I decide the content isn’t all that important, so I just don’t watch it, leaving the content provider out in the cold. Yet other times, when I do want to view the content on my iPad, I’ll connect to my computer, and with a few seconds of work, and after a few minutes of downloading, I’ll get a perfect copy from one of the myriad of unlicensed sources available online, ready to stream to my iPad. In two out of the three scenarios, the content owner doesn’t get my view, or my advertising-revenue-generating attention.
So it would seem the content providers would rather I ‘pirate’ a copy of their content than generate a return by allowing it to be viewed on my iPad or smartphone. Sure, for now they can say most people aren’t like me; Most people will just watch it on their computers. But for how much longer? Tablets and smartphones are already making a huge dent in the PC market; it won’t be long before mobile web browsing overtakes the PC, and eventually, many households will find they don’t even need a traditional PC anymore. At the same time, TVs are getting smarter, and consumers expect to have access to their online content sources there as well.
The reason content owners make (or buy) content is to make money off of it, usually by advertising during or around the content. So to maximize profits, they need as many viewers as possible. This is why they spend money advertising the content itself – they make the money back if there are enough viewers of the content, and likewise the advertising. So why would they in their right minds block access from any device? In the end, it’s their loss, not ours; but it would sure be nice if they could figure it out sooner rather than later.