I am a huge fan of the ever insightful talk show Last Week Tonight, hosted by John Oliver. I love the directness of the opinion pieces, agree with many of the stances taken and largely find the script (and Oliver himself) extremely entertaining and hilarious. Most of all, though, I appreciated and was won over by their clever usage of social media.
During the show’s first season, which was seen as somewhat of a gamble for both HBO and John Oliver – who looked set to be the next Daily Show host with ease – I avidly awaited each weeks “tirade” on Youtube. At the time I was living in New Zealand, but even back in the UK watching the full show, legally, was impossible as no networks had picked it up for local release. Despite that, because the show’s team decided to embrace web culture and new media, pretty much all the heavily scripted pieces of the program were available on Youtube, Facebook and other popular social sites. As a result, when I started picking up on the buzz surrounding the show through favourite Youtubers and web journalists, I actually had a point of reference: I could log on and watch Oliver’s brilliant ripostes on all manner of subjects. They were fantastically well put together, he made me laugh and I became on instant fan.
So I was over the moon when BSkyB, the company behind the largest “cable” TV network in the UK (Sky, if you hadn’t worked that out) acquired the distribution rights for the second season. I don’t actually subscribe to Sky (or any other TV package, for that matter) but it was great news for the show and would hopefully mean many more seasons to come. Unfortunately, it had an unforeseen side effect which was completely gutting and has meant I’ve not seen anything more from the program since the conclusion of Season 1.
Apparently, Sky has a much stricter licensing contract than HBO (or, more likely, either don’t see the positives in creating their own equivalent Youtube outlet or HBO wouldn’t let them). The end result was that my weekly video drop from John Oliver became nothing more than a dark gray screen with the overlaid text “This video has not been made available in your region”. Yep, the dreaded region lock had now been applied to my favourite news segment. Now, if I wanted to catch up on John Oliver’s witty social commentary, I would have to turn to illegal methods, which I don’t like doing (and yes, I accept I could also spend the £40+ a month to subscribe to Sky, buy an actual TV and get a UK TV license, pay for and install a satellite cable etc. but that was blatantly not worth it). The result was that I stopped watching and have spent the last year with pangs of frustration every time an American friend or news outlet tells me that I “must watch the latest John Oliver video”. I want to, believe me, but unfortunately I can’t.
Or at least that’s what I had thought. It turns out, it’s not as simple as all that. I have no idea when this began but certainly, right now, The Late Show also has a Facebook page. On that Facebook page are a large chunk of their Youtube videos, not simply linked to from Youtube but actually re-uploaded to Facebook. And therein lies the rub, because Facebook currently doesn’t do region locking on video content, so all those videos are openly available in the UK. Joy of joys, John Oliver can once more be a part of my weekly life! It’s like he’s coming home all over again!