Hulu takes aim at Netflix, leaving Canadians sidelined

But we can’t legally access the service
The Awesomes (Hulu)

Taking a page from Netflix and Amazon Prime, Hulu is no longer content to simply stream other television networks’ offerings. On Wednesday, the on-demand streaming service announced the second seasons for three original shows it launched last year—including The Awesomes, an animated superhero comedy starring Saturday Night Live‘s Seth Meyers—as well as two new high-profile series: the supernatural comedy Deadbeat, starring Tyler Labine and Cat Deeley, and Hotwives of Orlando, a Real Housewives spoof starring small-screen comedy all-stars Casey Wilson, Angela Kinsey and Kristen Schaal.

The move is a clear signal that Hulu—which offers a selection of TV shows, clips and movies through both a free, ad-supported online streaming service as well as a subscription model—is positioning itself as a competitor to Netflix, which last year broke new ground by producing such original programs as House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black and the fourth season of Arrested Development.

This would all be great news for Canadian TV addicts if it weren’t for the fact that Hulu isn’t available north of the U.S. border. While Hulu offers programming from almost 200 companies—including NBC/Universal, Fox and Disney/ABC, which each own 32% of the company—some of those series are also owned by Canadian broadcasters, tangling up rights in a cross-border boondoggle that’s about as absurd as it sounds in the digital age. Any Canadian who’s tried in vain to watch fresh clips from Saturday Night Live or Parks and Recreation via an online Hulu link will be familiar with the problem, with an aggravating message that pops up informing users that the selected clip “is not available in your region or country.”

Viewers are of course more than welcome to try to find the desired clips on the website of whichever Canadian network owns rights to certain series, but the headache of matching up the program to the broadcaster, only to then attempt navigating oft-confusing websites, can be more trouble than it’s worth…which is exactly why Hulu exists, as it compiles all the best clips and shows in one convenient place.

So where does this leave Canadian viewers who might want to check out any of Hulu’s new programming? On the wrong side of the law, basically. You can either search for the episodes on illegal file-sharing websites, or—as some Canadian websites have already pointed out—you can sign up for a VPN service that masks your computer’s location, tricking Hulu into thinking you are actually located in the United States, allowing otherwise blocked content to flow freely.

But curious Canadian TV fans shouldn’t have to resort to subverting the system just to get a glimpse of Seth Myers and co. After all, if we can have a Tim Hortons TV channel, surely there is a way to get Hulu legally streaming on this side of the border.