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Dr Horrible’s International Debut Debacle

302010nothing. That’s the experience fans outside of the US had earlier today when Joss Whedon’s web-based musical webisode experiment Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog went live using Hulu, a video-streaming service geo-locked to stream to US IP addresses only:

Now, it’s not unusual for content to be limited to US internet addresses, especially television, but Dr Horrible is a different kettle of fish. Joss Whedon has done an amazing job of courting the fans and getting them on side to view promote (and eventually buy) Dr Horrible’s adventures, so it came as something of a shock to most international fans (with whom Whedon usually has a pretty good rapport) when discovered they weren’t able to get the free stream of Dr Horrible’s first act (or even buy the episodes on iTunes).

On Whedonesque – the main Joss Whedon appreciation blog (to which Joss posts from time to time) – the thread initially celebrating Dr Horrible’s release was inundated with international fans lamenting the fact that they couldn’t view the new web-based show. Dr Horrible’s Facebook page and MySpace page similarly received a vitriolic helping of international fan dismay!

Now, if Dr Horrible was an NBC or Viacom property, that would be the end of the story. However, given Joss Whedon’s track record, it seems reasonable that the geo-blocking was unintentional or accidental. And now we can see that’s exactly right … on various forums Whedon’s team have posted that they’re trying to get a globally-viewable version up. It seems that this may very well be the case that the tools for online distribution simply aren’t quite up to the demands being put on them by content creators. Ironically, this experience might actually lead to more fans working out how to circumvent Hulu’s geo-restrictions as Whedon has sided with the fans once more and in the short term the official Dr Horrible Twitter feed has linked to instructions on how to circumvent Hulu! Indeed, for long-time Whedon fans this might be reminiscent of a moment in 1999 when Whedon encouraged Canadian viewers to “bootleg that puppy” after Fox postponed the season three finale due in the wake of the Columbine shootings.

For Dr Horrible, it has been a rough start, but Whedon’s track record and the excitement from US fans who’ve already enjoyed Dr Horrible leave the rest of us waiting eagerly, knowing that Whedon and his team are doing all they can and will surely learn a lot from this experience. (And thus, I should add, we can reasonably expect that acts two and three of Dr Horrible will, indeed, get a simultaneous global release!).

Update: Drs Horrible (aka Mutant Enemy) have risen to the challenge, and the first act of Dr Horrible is now viewable by everyone! Go watch Act One (’tis funny!).

Update 2: It seems that Dr Horrible’s first day had one more obstacle: popularity.  Dr Horrible’s servers were completely overloaded and the site diappeared for a while, but now they’ve moved onto “monster servers” so all should be good … or is that evil?

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  1. The trailer (on the fansite) was on Vimeo, which is powered by Amazon S3 (so unlikely to go down with a spike in traffic). Any reason that wouldn’t have worked?

  2. David, I suspect Hulu was chosen over Vimeo since it’s more geared up for ‘monetization’ and refined control over content, stats and less rippable. I concur, though, that Vimeo would most likely have been more robust and stable.

  3. Fair enough… except that it’s still rippable (only takes one person and it’ll be in a torrent), and this was supposed to be the “free” version.

    They’ve also got an iTunes link, so I’m guessing Hulu isn’t their plan for monetization. I’d guess it’s just whatever they’re more familiar with…

    Some students in my hometown recently put together a (very good) indie film (Wormtooth Nation, if you’re interested) — it was originally on YouTube until someone mentioned Vimeo was doing HD.

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