Thursday, September 15, 2016

CraveTV: Your devices are not supported. CanCon unavailable to Canadians

After the cast functionality stopped working with CraveTV after a browser upgrade, I tried contacting CraveTV for support.  As I wanted to send detailed browser version information I sent is an an email, and they ignored the email and asked me to phone support.  After spending a considerable amount of time on the phone they created a support ticket.

A week goes by and all I got back was: "We've received an update from our technical support team that CraveTV is not supported on Chromebooks or any device that is running Chrome OS."

After looking at it again the CraveTV FAQ does only list specific version of Windows XP and MacOS to access CraveTV from a computer.  This is consistent with my previous (and confrimed today) experiments where CraveTV didn't work on either Firefox or Chrome on my Ubuntu desktop.  In the case of Firefox it would always say "To watch video, you need an Adobe Flash
Player Update.Please click to download." even if the Flash Player was installed.  With Flash you need to keep it very up-to-date given it is extremely buggy and has many security flaws.  As discussed in my first review of CraveTV, Chrome on the desktop would never display video, but unlike back in April it will now also not Cast.

I don't have any Windows or MacOS computers to verify, but I would be extremely surprised if Cast was working on those platforms.  The bug that I discovered is browser version dependent, not operating system dependent, and the answer from technical support was a cop-out.

At the moment the only way I can get CraveTV to work is on an Android phone casting to a ChromeCast device.  Watching television on the phone would be unusable, so if they break ChromeCast on Android as well then I will need to unsubscribe and "seek alternatives" to access the content that exclusive regional licensing has largely blocked from "lawful" streaming access in Canada.

None of this really surprised me, as I didn't expect to get much support from CraveTV's technical support.  In generally, I have come to not expect much from Bell.

This is partly why the so-called "Digital CanCon Consultation" results frustrate me so much.   The reality is that content, Canadian and otherwise, is being restricted from being accessed by Canadians.  Making it easier for Canadians to access content on modern platforms should be a priority.  Not only should there not be discussion of a "Netflix tax", but there should be appropriate subsidies to Netflix which is doing a far better job in delivering content (Canadian and otherwise) to Canadians than the BDUs are.

The BDUs represent the past, and how people watched scripted and unscripted television programming pre-Internet.   With the Internet people expect to watch content at a time of their choosing (and whole seasons at a time, and without being inaccessible between broadcast and DVD release) and on the devices of their choosing (not a tiny select few devices like CraveTV).

It isn't surprising Bell does such a poor job with CraveTV as BDUs like Bell and Rogers are in an "Innovators Dilemma" where they don't want modern delivery mechanisms to compete with legacy broadcasting and BDUs.  They delay streaming to try to force people to BDUs, and they provide extremely crappy streaming service from a technical point of view to force less technical people to BDUs.

Or, lets be open about this: drives people to copyright infringement.  The more the BDUs and broadcasters make copyright infringement more convenient (or often the only option at specific times and devices), and the more barriers they put up to accessing works legally, the more people will be driven elsewhere.  The consultations claim that "stakeholders" want more money, even though these same stakeholders are deliberately making decisions which drive fans to infringing sources.  If policy makers want to ensure more money is put into content, then creating regulations to force availability in modern delivery mechanisms must be explored (such as prohibiting region restriction and exclusive regional licensing).

I also find the "foreign competition" claims surrounding streaming services to be utter nonsense, where it is suggested that the BDUs represent something "Canadian" while Netflix is somehow "foreign".   As primarily a Netflix viewer I notice those "with the support of" references to the Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, and other provincial governments mentioned often.  If these Netflix delivered shows are "Canadian" enough to receive subsidies, they are clearly Canadian enough to be on the CanCon spectrum.  How does that compare to the BDUs which receive massive government handouts in many forms, and yet delay and restrict Canadian access to that taxpayer subsidized content.  Instead of seeing Netflix as somehow "foreign", maybe policy should become brand agnostic and mandate that government subsidized content be made as accessible as possible to the Canadian taxpayers : and if the BDUs do such a shoddy job at a streaming service, that would include mandating that licensing on Netflix be allowed (and even subsidized).

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