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Study: Chromecast allows users to circumvent TV viewing restrictions

Study: Chromecast allows users to circumvent TV viewing restrictions
Google senior product manager Rishi Chandra demonstrated the new Chromecast Internet streaming device at its unveiling in July. A new survey shows that some consumers are using it to circumvent restrictions on viewing. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

A new study finds that people are using Google's Chromecast streaming device to watch television shows on their living room TVs, at times circumventing the restrictions networks have placed on where consumers can watch their online content.

The Parks Associates study reveals that roughly one-third of Chromecast owners use the device daily to watch current TV shows on Hulu

The Hulu use is potentially problematic for Hollywood, because half of those surveyed said they use the free version of the streaming service to watch the recently broadcast shows on their TVs, rather than pay $8 a month for a Hulu Plus subscription that's designed to allow viewing on Internet-connected TVs, mobile devices and through game consoles.

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"What we're seeing is consumers ultimately want their content, first and foremost, on the biggest screen in their home," said Parks Associates Research Director Brett Sappington. "In many cases, the content rights don't really allow that to happen. So, Chromecast provides a work-around."

Sappington said consumers use their laptops and Google's Chrome browser to access the free Hulu site and select a TV episode, then transfer the video to the TV via the Chromecast streaming device. Sports fans are using the same back-door technique to watch soccer matches that NBC Sports streams online but doesn't broadcast.

"They only broadcast one or two soccer matches, but online they have them all," Sappington said.

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Such screen-shifting would be hard to thwart, Sappington said, because TV networks want to create a legitimate way for viewers to catch up on shows they may have missed (and capitalize on that audience through advertising).

"All you would do is make it more difficult for consumers to watch your content," Sappington said. "And if it's an ad-based approach, like the free version of Hulu, you can't undo that without having consequences to your viewing audience."

Nearly half of Chromecast owners said they stream YouTube videos or watch TV shows and movies through Netflix on a daily basis, according to Parks Associates. About one-third check out such HBO shows as "Boardwalk Empire" through the HBO Go app, or access Amazon Instant Video.

The results were based on an online survey of 3,000 broadband households conducted in late August.

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