Stupid Television Executives

The guys who run Hulu, on the other hand, are smart. You'll see why in a bit.

I don't even watch network TV, as it turns out. Nor cable. Canceled my DISH subscription a year ago. I get all of my content off of the intertubes. But regardless, let's start with American network television to spotlight some foolishness there. Let's begin with

For the purpose of discussion, let's suppose that you are a *huge* fan of NBC's 30 ROCK. I'm not, even though I think Tina Fey is really, really hot, but let's just pretend for a moment. Further, let's suppose that you missed last week's episode, so now you are pointing your Linux-powered Firefox browser at to catch it. After a quick search and a couple of video advertisements you find the link to last week's episode.

You click it.

You get a pretty Flash animation of the NBC peacock, and a pop up window containing the following message:

Sorry but we do not support that browser, please use one of these
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Internet Explorer 7
Internet Explorer 6
Firefox 3
Firefox 2

Firefox 3
Firefox 2

See what I'm getting at? What a stupid message! What a stupid policy to block Linux users! And how rude to not even tell us up front that we are being blocked! There are xx million Linux users in the United States. Nobody knows what xx is, but we're pretty sure that the number of Linux users in the US is in the tens of millions. If you believe the hit counters that some web sites use to collect stats on visitors, perhaps 5-7% of us who cruise the web are running some flavor of Linux. The population of the United States is approximately 350 million people. Five percent of 350 million is around 17.5 million.

This is an estimate, of course, but you get the idea. There are a significant number of us Linux users out there. And here we are being diss'ed by those idiots in the US television industry.

Ok, enough of that. I've wiped the little flecks of spittle off my lips. We can proceed, calmly.

Back to last week's episode of 30 ROCK. So what do we do? We go over to and watch it there. That's what we do. No muss, no fuss. And by so doing we cause to lose advertisement revenue. We generate positive advertising cash flow for The smart guys win, the idiots lose.

Works for me!

FWIW, not all American network TV companies have management and policies that are so thick-headed as those demonstrated by ABC provides an acceptable Linux viewing experience. Fox let me watch last week's episode of Bones (although the viewing experience was better on Hulu -- more Hulu bandwidth, perhaps). CBS has a nice library of videos that play fine with Linux: 48 Hours, 60 Minutes, CSI, and much more.

Come to think of it, it appears that it is mostly the TV execs over at NBC who are sporting the room-temperature IQs. Fortunately, observing practical applications of Darwin's theories can be quite rewarding. Let's all sit back and enjoy watching NBC go the way of the Dodo bird.



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I can't understand that why

curl's picture

I can't understand that why such a brand companies makes foolish mistakes about it.. 30 rock is still my favorite comedy shows and most of the US population watch 30 rock online just because of the Tina Fey is a amazing character of the story.. IN such cases people prefer online tv shows sites..

Quote by Groucho Marx

Anonymous's picture

Quote from Groucho Marx, slightly paraphrased: "I think the television is very instructive. Every time someone switches on the TV set in the living room, I immediately go to my room to read a book."

change ur user agent, but its still stupid

anothermark's picture

you can easily change your user agent, but that is stupid, if ffox works for mac and windows, and so does flash, why block linux!!!

I suggest it's the MS in the

Anonymous's picture

I suggest it's the MS in the MS-NBC partnership that is causing the issue. For instance, Flash is a perfectly proven technology, cross platform, etc. Yet NBC chose Silverlight as their platform to broadcast the Olympics online.

I, like most on here, don't

Phil.R's picture

I, like most on here, don't have a bunch of spare time to plop down infront of the TV to watch shows on a schedule. My solution was to use tvtorrents dot kom. No commercials and I can get any program in matter of minutes of broadcast. International tv also.

Many websites that present

Anonymous's picture

Many websites that present this problem for Linux users can be fixed via User Agent Switcher (Firefox Add-On), and choosing Internet Explorer as your user agent. It has allowed me to see websites like retailroadshow.

Market Share

Jeff Hoogland's picture

As much as I love Linux I think 5-7% market share is assuming a bit much


The sword of statistics

Anonymous's picture

It doesn't matter what any statistics reflect. First off, there is no real and accurate way to get the correct number and second but most importantly, Microsoft has themselves claimed Linux to be their number one market threat...and they've made that statement to the SEC in two previous filings. Microsoft gauges Linux market share as high as 15 percent on the desktop.

Statistics are meant to be manipulated by the wielder. I think the market leader in that group has a better grasp on it than anyone else. If we're talking world-wide, I don't think 15 percent is far from the mark.

maybe time for some civil disobedience...

helios's picture

Now I am not advocating breaking the law...far be it from me to do so.

I can go to torrentscan dott kom and download any episode I want in less than 20 minutes, that's assuming there are plenty of seeds and there are usually thousands. My reasons for doing so meld between the issues discussed here and a schedule that doesn't allow me to plop down in front of my TV on the scheduled time and date. One of my watched programs is Supernatural. If you click the Hulu link, it takes you to cw dott kom and then unceremoniously proclaims that "your operating system is not currently supported. Please use either Windows...."

Bit Torrent client is then evoked and I can (with the help of a decent broadband connection) download and watch to my heart's content. Perfect quality, commercials nicely edited out and no annoyances from a goofy provider that doesn't realize the market they are missing.

Sure the holier than thou crowd will balk at the solution but the consumer WILL have their content. Even at the risk of pirating it.

At least I will.

Vote with your dollars

Anonymous's picture

If you want it to change, vote with your dollars. Your insurance company doesn't support Linux users? Switch to a company that does, and tell them why you switched. Do that with banks, etc. I complain and give them a reasonable amount of time to fix it. Some do, some don't. The ones that don't lose my business. If enough of us do this, they'll listen. One thing that MBAs all get taught is that every customer that goes away mad takes 10-20 other (current and future) customers with them - friends, family, ...

NBC owns 1/3 of Hulu

peanut369's picture

So they're still getting their ad revenue.


Doug.Roberts's picture

they're only getting 1/3 of the revenues they would have...

It's not like they only get

peanut369's picture

It's not like they only get 1/3 of the ad revenues from the NBC videos on Hulu...they get 1/3 of EVERYTHING on Hulu. Hulu probably gets more views in one day than gets all month.

Change you Agent ID

Anonymous's picture

Shouldn't that work?

New Comers

Anonymous's picture

Thank's for your information I'm New about Linux


InaTux's picture

Hulu doesn't work either... I get this...

"We're sorry but we're unable to stream videos to your system.
This may be due to an Adobe software limitation
on 64-bit Linux systems."

Plus Hulu doesn't work with Ad-Block either.

Check your Flash version

Anonymous's picture

For a long while there was no Flash 10.x for 64bit Linux. I believe it has been corrected, but if you've not updated your flash, that would explain the message.

It works here

Doug.Roberts's picture

64-bit Kubuntu 9.10 & 10.04 both work flawlessly with Hulu Desktop, and in the browser.

You didn't say what distribution you were running, but you might want to consider changing, or at least check that you are running the right version of flash player.


"Q : What are the technical requirements to watch videos at

To enjoy videos at Hulu, you will need the following software installed on your computer:

Adobe Flash Player 10.0.22 or above

Internet Explorer 6.0 or above, Firefox 2.0 or above, or Safari 3.0, or Chrome 4.0 or above

Microsoft Windows XP SP2, Microsoft Windows Vista, Macintosh OS X v10.4 or above, or Linux

JavaScript and Cookies must also be enabled."

Maybe this is why

Earnest's picture

Perhaps this is why doesn't support Hulu? Who wants to deal with "are you using this distro?"

Hulu is a joint venture between NBC and Fox.

Distro shouldn't matter

mwallette's picture

The distro shouldn't matter. As long as Hulu is using a standard protocol to deliver the content, then any distribution should be able to play the content. In fact, it shouldn't even matter if you are running Linux, *BSD, OS-X or even Windows. All that should matter is whether or not you have the correct software (i.e., Flash) to play the media stream.

Re: It works here

InaTux's picture

I am using Debian Squeeze (64bit), with Firefox 3.6 (64bit), and -- in order for Flash to work on 64bit -- Flash I am in the "or above" in every area.


Doug.Roberts's picture

Are you inside the US?

I'm running Kubunto 10.04, Chrome 5.0.342.9 beta, and Flash on my 64-bit Athalon/Nvidia system here. You might want to give Chrome a try. It also worked with Kubuntu 8.04 and 9.10.


Anonymous's picture

Hulu is unavailable to users from outside the US.

But if they find the right sponsors, they could place ads in their videos, and release them to a worldwide audience. I'd be the first in line on opening day.

Just as NBC site blocks Linux

maxim75's picture

Just as NBC site blocks Linux users, Hulu blocks anyone outside USA :-)
Having a hosting account and using SOCKS5 proxy solves this issue, but it requires additional effort and technical knowledge

I've been waiting to see this issue raised - Thank You

Shannon VanWagner's picture

Ah.. you've struck the chord of an issue I've been very passionate about for the past 2 years!

The funny thing is that ABC and FOX only just recently made their full episodes accessible via Linux. This is a win though... I see it as the fruit of some of my very own labor. I say this because I submitted feedback, created digg articles, and even wrote my congress person to get something done about ABC and FOX and finally, finally now we can look at those stations from GNU/Linux. Try this Google search term to see some of the issues: full episodes linux

The remaining holdouts that I know of are (I just feedbacked them this morning, NBC, and Oprah). One problem is that some of these sites use the player - it's a player that STILL doesn't work with Linux - even though they've promised Linux compatibility for over a year... The ugly thing for msft is that they are a big financier of movenetworks.

The key here is to use our numbers... Imagine this: 5 (or more) million Linux users click the feedback button on within the next 24 hours and ask them to support Linux. Someone takes a collection for a billboard and a someone creates a website, the next thing you know - they listen and allow Linux in to see NBC full episodes. Let's do it! I'll be sending the feedback right after I type this. I'll also cruze over to and do the same there.

This rig is rolling, thanks for posting. Stay tuned, things are about to change.

Go Freedom! Go GNU/Linux!
Shannon VanWagner

NBC vs

tktim's picture

A while back site would not work with Linux or Mac. At some point they updated it to work with Linux and Mac. It's been working ok for a long time. I noticed that the news type video's on the site work ok with linux. They may be linking back to not sure. The 30 Rock type video's may be protected by DRM. Is it possible to use a browser extension that tricks to thinking you are using a Windows browser?


DaveyB's picture

Well NBC owns 32% of Hulu and I'm surprised they haven't screwed up Hulu already, but don't worry, if the NBC-Comcast merger goes through I'm sure Comcast will figure out a way to destroy Hulu.

But the new (replaces mostly works on Linux so that's nice.


Worth pointing out that NBC

Anonymous's picture

Worth pointing out that NBC owns part of hulu. It's Owned by NBC, Fox, and ABC.

Beware the doggy approximations

Anonymous's picture

"""If you believe the hit counters that some web sites use to collect stats on visitors, perhaps 5-7% of us who cruise the web are running some flavor of Linux. The population of the United States is approximately 350 million people. Five percent of 350 million is around 17.5 million."""

Well... There were 119,400,000 households in the US in 2008, and the US has a broadband penetration of some 60% of households, giving 71.6m computers in the US. Let's take into account increased penetration, households and bla bla: 75m households. While some computers might be used by more than one person, what is blocked is the PC and not its user.

This gives an average of between 3.5m and 5m potential Linux accesses, which is far less than the stated 17.5m. And I personally don't believe there are so many for leisure purposes :-)

Doggy Approximation?

Anonymous's picture

Are "Doggy"s Linux users too? Oh, I forgot, mathematicians can't spell.

Including yours

Anonymous's picture

The article said nobody knows how many there Linux users there were in the states. What makes you think you know any better?

Not just NBC

mwallette's picture

It's not just NBC who have implemented bone-headed policies towards Linux. I recently bought insurance for my motorcycle through a national insurance company who I will leave nameless (can you say "Flo"?), and needed to download the "proof of insurance" card. Unfortunately, their web page would attempt to detect the plugins for your browser, and if it didn't see Adobe Reader listed, it would pop up an error message saying "I'm sorry, you must have Adobe Reader...". There was no option to save the file rather than view it through a plug-in; there was only a link to download Adobe Reader (which, of course, didn't support Debian/Firefox). Even though I had the generic PDF reader that ships with Debian and I had the Google PDF plug-in, I had to wait until the paper card arrived in the mail before I could (legally) ride the bike [:rolleyes:]. I did, of course, submit feedback to their tech support saying that a "download document" link would have been greatly appreciated.

It's the programmers

Joel Koltner's picture

You have to realize that when 90+% of the developers/programmers out there are running Windoze, it takes truly above-average technical management to understand that there's a huge difference between, "it works on Internet Explorer under Windows 7!" and "it's actually a standards-compliant, robust application." I've worked with plenty of these Windoze-only guys, and as soon as you mention "Firefox," "Opera," "Linux," etc., they become anxious and start telling you that, well, OK, they *could* test on these alternate platforms, but it's going to throw their schedule off weeks if not months, costing the company plenty, it'll be risky, etc. -- and there are a lot of managers who, lacking much technical experience themselves, will believe that this is how it "has to be" rather than realizing that, no, if you hire the right programmers, building cross-platform web apps is little harder than highly broken apps that are restricted by OS or browser or plug-in.

A quick visit to is always good to get a feel for just how low the standards are for people looking to get jobs in software development these days. :-)

Of course, if you program

Yfrwlf's picture

Of course, if you program using standards, you shouldn't need to test on anything, if the standards are proper standards the the browsers are properly compliant with them.

That's not the issue here any way.

The issue here is that you are given an "error", and the FLASH-BASED movie player, on a Linux system with ADOBE FLASH installed, refuses to play the video. It is a *direct* FU towards Linux users. Youtube works fine. ABC and all those other sites work fine. Flash on NBC plays the "loading" Flash video just fine, yet, it is somehow incapable of changing to the actual video? Please...that's complete garbage, to me it reeks of intentional breakage *shrugs* May not be, but that's my vote.

Great article, right on

apexwm's picture

I am also tired of coming across websites that have the error about not running Windoze or Mac OS X. If they can't design a website that is cross compatible, they are turning away visitors and chances are I can get along just fine without them. If I come across any websites like this, I'll just stop using them and go somewhere else that has a compatible site just as you did. If they want to turn away visitors, more power to them. Thanks for the great article!!

Migration Path?

backspaces's picture

Do you lash up a computer to the TV (MythTV etc)? Or just watch on a computer screen?

I totally agree that the InterTube is getting closer and closer to a reality. We've used both NetFlix and Amazon for old TV series and movies and prefer it to other stunts. We play through a TiVo typically, the downloads work to it.

But because of the constant wars between media providers, equipment manufacturers, cable/dish etc .. with the poor consumer left in the middle, and generally left out in terms of quality service, I'm thinking our next TiVo/CableTV will be the internet.

No MythTV

Doug.Roberts's picture

Nope, like it said in the article (there *will* be a quiz afterwards), I dropped DISH a year ago. No network, cable, satellite, nor any other kind of TV service in this house. Except for the InterTubes, that is. We have Netflix + streaming, although the streaming quality is not even quite 480p, so I usually just rent a DVD or Blu-Ray. It seems like every time I turn around there's another good on-line site for streaming content, too.

My only gripe is that you can't find *all* TV content on line, in part due to (assumption here) Microsoft pressures to exclude Linux users, and in part due to the fact that traditional television content providers have not yet grasped the fact that the internet is the new delivery mechanism.

Oh, and to finally answer your question, the answer is both: I built a Linux-based home entertainment center with a nice bright 47" LED flat panel Samsung TV (used only as a display), and an 800W amp with a pair of wonderful old Celestion 9 speakers.

It's also nice for listening to streaming music content, like and my large digitized music collection.

I also watch Hulu on my desktop & laptop.

A little bit on the side...

Anonymous's picture

... I think it's similarly stupid by CBS (and others) to limit viewers by geography : "The video you have requested is not available for your geographic region."

These limitations are beginning to feel painful. Or - should I just move to the US to be "in the loop"? :-S

Maybe has something to do with MS-NBC?

DantePasquale's picture

I've always been curious about this, but does anyone have any real information on weather NBCs affiliations with MS on MSNBC have some influence over supported end-user OS's?

NOTE: No conspiracy here, since I've never had any dealings with NBC, only Fox, so I have not asked anyone at NBC tech.

Coincidence? I think not

Doug.Roberts's picture

The topic of NBC's close affiliation with Microsoft has been discussed at length in places like Slashdot. The consensus is typically something like "Of COURSE NBC is unfriendly to Linux because of their ties to M$." Naturally, you'd expect that on Slashdot.

But it's still probably true.

I won't even mention NBC's Olympics coverage and the M$ Silverlight streaming fiasco.

Olymics and Silverlight

lefty.crupps's picture

Regarding the Olympics on NBC, this really upset me as well. I even installed the Moonlight plugin which was released just in time to allow Linux users to watch with Silverlight's technology. So I browsed over to the official NBC Olympics website, and I had to enter my cable provider's access code or something. Huh?

I don't have cable nor satellite television, which is why I want to watch on the web! Plus this stuff (well, some of it) is being broadcast over the air for FREE, why would I need a cable provider for this?

Limiting access for a standards-based interface (the WWW) is a crock, but I do believe things are slowly changing for the better. Somewhat.

Doug, I completely forgot

DantePasquale's picture

Doug, I completely forgot about the Silverlight crap during the Olympics. Never did get that working on my Linux machines :( what a bummer that was.


Doug.Roberts's picture

The Olympics streaming experience was more of an epic Moonlight fail, as I understand some fraction of M$ & Mac users were able to get it to work. As far as I can tell though, 100% of Linux users were able to get Moonlight to fail while trying to watch the Olympics online.

Improvements are on the way !

Anonymous's picture

I just submitted the problem to their tech support. I expect in no time it will be improved for everyone. The message after I hit the submit button located on this page, says the following:
"Technical Support
Your Feedback has been sent.

Thank you for reporting this technical issue. Every comment from our users is valuable to us and helps us improve for everyone.
- The Web Development/Engineer Team"

How is this the executives

Ben's picture

How is this the executives fault? Do you really think they all got together and said "BAN LINUX!"? No, it's probably just some low-level developer who doesn't know any better that did this. There is no conspiracy, just sloppy coding.

64-bit linux

Petr Cizmar's picture

I didn't know about Hulu; I just gave it a try a minute ago. However, it doesn't like my 64-bit Debian. It says that this is due to Adobe software limitation on 64-bit Linux systems. :-(

A solution approach

Doug.Roberts's picture

Hi, Petr.

There is a potential work-around the issue you describe: you could download and install the 64-bit flashplayer (beta) from Adobe. You can find that here:

No, does not work.

Xerus's picture

I'm using the latest beta of Flash & Hulu still says that it will not stream to 64-bit Linux flash. I cannot use the Huludesktop either. The only way I can watch Hulu on 64-bit Linux is by using Opera 10.52 beta. It appears to use the 32-bit flash player without having to use any wrapper. And I prefer not to have to resort to the wrapper programs if I do not have to do so. I hope that Hulu and Adobe can work things out on the 64-bit flash player soon...

Works here

Doug.Roberts's picture

64-bit Kubuntu 9.10 & 10.04 both work flawlessly with Hulu Desktop, and in the browser.

You didn't say what distribution you were running, but you might want to consider changing.

Did you tell NBC?

Anonymous's picture

Perhaps ?
Hey, it may not go anywhere, but if you don't complain to the source.... ?