Once upon a time, when you lived oversees, you had no idea what anyone watched or listened to in your home country. Thanks to DNS and VPN services, we can watch what we want, where we want…well almost. Score one point for people who want to watch or listen to things they enjoy. There will always be governments that they try get in the way of that. We all lose points for that.
What’s worse is when the content providers get in the way. You would think they would support the freedom of the arts (using “arts” loosely to cover everything from Sons and Lovers to Lady Gaga). That is not the case.
Netflix is almost global now. It’s here in Kenya. I’d gladly pay for the Kenyan service. However, I won’t. The reason is House of Cards, one of my favorite shows.
It’s a Netflix show. They don’t offer it in Kenya, not yet anyway. It’s not a licensing issue. It was a business decision that didn’t take customers into account. In other words, it was pure stupidity.
Even if it was a licensing issue, it’s time for companies to rethink how licensing and distribution is handled. Geo-blocking is antiquated and bad business. Customers will find a way around it either through gray areas (like I do) or through piracy (which I don’t do).
HBO Now, which I also access through a DNS service, seems to be better about things. HBO has a better understanding on how people watch television shows and movies. They still need to understand the need to binge watch, but they have a better grasp on access to content. (It’s about the value of what you provide, not just the volume of subscriptions.) Although, I still don’t want to try it without DNS. I’m afraid I’ll be geo-blocked. I don’t feel comfortable to even test it. I can’t risk not watching Game of Thrones. (Is John Snow still alive? Does he still know nothing?)
Amazon Prime is okay. They’ve blocked some Apple integration, which is annoying. I liked being able to stream downloaded (either Prime or content I purchased) videos from my iPad to my television using AirPlay. Now we have to go through Amazon products only (although I can still do this using my Mac laptop). Good thing we have a Fire TV stick and a Fire Tablet. That’s another lesson that companies need to learn: your device ecosystem doesn’t matter. Only the customer’s ecosystem matters. One would think that Amazon would know better given the success of their Kindle model (buy the content from them and read on whatever you want). Yes, we’re accessing Amazon Prime via VPN and DNS too.
It’s not all bad though. There is one company that is getting it right from my point of view: Spotify. It’s either supported in Kenya, or the music industry is simply ahead of the digital game. We’ve had no problems with Spotify, whether through wi-fi or using cellphone data plans. It just works. (Hey, Apple, remember when you could say that?)
Going back to my first point, we are a long way from when I’ve lived abroad before. And, sadly, there will always be government censorship. But, hopefully, in the next few years, at least the content providers won’t be a roadblock.
Okay, time to finish up Narcos. What better way to spend Leap Day?