Geoblocking here to stay: Viocorp

Geoblocking will continue to be used as long as studios rely on territory-based deals, according to Viocorp CTO Rachel Dixon.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The acting chief technology officer for online video provider Viocorp, Rachel Dixon, has said that video providers such as Viocorp will need to continue using geoblocking until territorial licensing for content goes away.

Australian television networks are slowly closing the gap between shows airing overseas and the shows airing in Australia, with a number of programs such as Breaking Bad, The Newsroom, Dexter, and Doctor Who now generally airing within hours of the US and UK broadcasts, while other shows, such as the new Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., will not be airing until a week after the US.

But while TV networks are slowly catching up, the overseas content owners still make it difficult for Australians to access that content online. Online streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix continue to be geoblocked in Australia.

Viocorp, which has signed online video-streaming deals with Seven and Hoyts in Australia, is no stranger to geoblocking, and uses it for some video services it offers in Malaysia. Dixon told a Communications Alliance event in Sydney yesterday that because shows are still sold as being able to be resold in other jurisdictions at other times, geoblocking will stick around for some time yet.

"The idea that there won't be territorial licensing, it is going to take a very long time to go away, because the economics of the business utterly depends on it," she said.

"Geoblocking is not perfect, but it seems to be sufficient for everybody in the state of denial. I think we'll continue to see a lot of geoblocking. The studios still want territorial licensing."

Aside from territorial restrictions, Dixon admitted that one of the difficulties facing a company like Viocorp is that it is hard for online video-streaming companies to use cloud video transcoding services, because each studio has a different requirement for the format and quality of videos, depending on the device that the content is viewed on. Also, taking into account the different sizes needed for different connection speeds ultimately means that many different versions of the videos need to be produced.

"The economics don't work for cloud. Cloud is great if you need a lot of capacity for a very very short period of time. A movie file from a studio is 200Mbps; if you've got a 100-minute movie, it takes our server around 115 minutes to transcode that into about 16 bitrates. So if you've got a library of, say, 2,000 titles, that's going to take a couple of months to transcode," she said.

"It's just not cost effective to use cloud for that; you're going to have to go buy a bunch of hardware."

Studios, Dixon said, have yet to figure out that a movie file is a movie file.

"It's exactly the same content. It is exactly the same file. From a technology perspective, it's a file, but in a content world, it's not a file, it's a property, and property is exploited," she said.

"It's not a terribly rational industry, and it takes a long time for things to [move]."

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