This first started to be an annoyance with HBO and Showtime shows, whose official sites are only available if you’re coming in on an American IP address. Their setup isn’t perfect, for example, I had no problem accessing the sites from an AOL Canada dial up account. But it’s annoying. I’m not sure what their thinking is. They say it’s about copyright issues but I don’t really know how blocking the official site stops any copyright infringement that might take place. It’s not as though non-US fans can’t get episode information, breaking news, pictures, and the like from elsewhere — blocking the official site just seems like a pointless exercise.
The BBC and other UK broadcasters do something similar. They block the streaming videos unless you’re coming in on a UK-based IP address. That is reasonable. (I don’t know if CTV or the CBC or any other Canadian broadcasters do the same thing for non-Canadian IPs but it wouldn’t surprise me either way.) But they don’t block the entire show site — for most shows. For example, you can visit the official Coronation Street site at itv.com and see most of the content, except for the streaming videos (including trailers). Same with the BBC’s Doctor Who site. I don’t mind the blocking of the actual episode streaming videos but why the extra stuff like interviews and behind-the-scenes videos? I mean, hell, I can watch the webcams during a live Most Haunted event in real-time, for crying out loud.
For their Torchwood site, though, the BBC has obviously taken a shine to HBO’s method. It will only let you see the homepage briefly while it loads — then you get a lovely “If you are outside the UK you will not be able to use bbc.co.uk/torchwood for rights reasons.” error message.
As an aside, I didn’t know that UK residents had to pay a (pretty hefty and heavily enforced) annual TV licensing fee to support the BBC. I realize that our tax dollars supporting the CBC works out to a similar situation but there’s something that rankles about the way the BBC does it.