Watching Hulu in Singapore… Really Can?
Credit: Hulu, Singapore Tourism Board
Backed by media conglomerates Disney-ABC, NBCUniversal and 21st Century FOX*, there’s no doubt that Hulu (first 30 days free!) is the single best calabash** for any American TV show couch potato to catch up and watch online.
* Yah, as you know, FOX’s shares belong to Disney after acquisition. WarnerMedia has minority shares, and somehow CBS isn’t into this idea…
** The name of ‘Hulu’ is actually calabash in Mandarin.
Better than Netflix? Hmm… It’s different. Hulu offers latest episodes of your favourite television shows available on the same day aired in the United States. From Brooklyn Nine-nine, American Idol, to The Simpsons. From award-winning original series Handmaid’s Tale to more classics like Seinfeld adding every year.
You got BitTorrent? Aha, you probably don’t know what original studio quality*** from authentic source looks like. It’s something not those online copies recorded from television could compete with.
*** Streaming available in SD, 720p and 1080p HD video quality.
The Issue: Geo-Blocking
Isn’t Hulu wonderful? Totally.
It’s just that, unfortunately Hulu is only available in the U.S.
and Japan^. When you try to access to Hulu’s video library in Singapore (or any other countries than American or Japanese territories apparently), it triggers Hulu’s geographical restriction system to simply kick you out.
^ Japanese Hulu doesn’t offer exactly the same… so just ignore it for now.
If so, how about… cheatin’?
Well, well, naughty boy… We do NOT cheat!
We’re just exploring all possibilities ;-)
Solution #1: VPN
Smartasses who know a bit of IT basics probably will consider US proxies. Great move! Easy and direct. There are quite a number of proxy or VPN (virtual private network) providers who even advertise its feature as a method to unblock Hulu (or Netflix^^). In general, VPN is relatively more reliable and secure than Web proxy in terms of videos online streaming.
^^ Netflix is not blocked but dynamically offering different contents in different countries.
After asking almighty Google, you may find a few decent VPN providers based on reviews, such as NordVPN (low as $2.99/month in promotion) or ProtonVPN (starting free or $5/month). All of them are built with a simple concept: renting servers located in the United States to set up VPN, and routing all your visits through those servers.
Oooops. Sometimes it fails. Because Hulu continuously blocks IP addresses from any known unblocking service providers. So nowadays unblocking Hulu through US VPN servers isn’t simply best any more.
But no need to be pessimistic. The battle isn’t over. There are always new VPN providers whose servers haven’t been blacklisted by Hulu… yet. And, sneaky players like TorGuard just buy a large number of reserved IP addresses, which are not in Hulu’s blacklist… yet.
Solution #2: DNS
To be a bit more technical, bypassing geographical restriction also can be done by routing requests through U.S. based DNS servers. It’s simpler & faster, since it only routes specified traffic on demand, not redirecting anything like VPN. So it’s called Smart DNS.
Nevertheless, unsurprisingly Hulu never stops blocking smart DNS routing servers once known. There’re not many players in this niche market, especially for routing Hulu access outside the U.S.
Notable providers are UnoDNS (starting USD4.95/month) and UnblockUS (starting CAD4.99/month) etc.
UPDATED ON 15/12/2018:
Both UnoDNS and UnblockUS seem in limbo or dead since 2016, probably due to strict American privacy regulations. As I know Getflix from Australia is still on. Yay.
→ Singapore ISP Transparent Proxy Issue
Updated on 24/09/2014
For unknown reason, my ISP’s transparent proxy disappeared since last month, so the workings below is not applicable any more.
Singapore is a little different red dot. Required by Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), all Internet service providers (ISPs) such as SingTel, StarHub, or M1 etc must have a transparent proxy to filter contents such as pornography, racial or religious hatred etc.
It’s no big deal to VPN, but DNS has trouble. All DNS routing services couldn’t work properly with transparent proxy. Quite a number of complaints to ISPs but no way to fight law enforcement.
Anyway, a loophole I found is, no transparent proxy on network with dedicated IP. I guess IDA could easily trace and block anything since IP address is dedicated. I’m not sure how much a dedicated IP costs and it seems only available for companies.
For home users in Singapore, I have another workaround, which might be troublesome, but working at least. It’s like this:
1. implement a DD-WRT router for home network; 2. get a VPN with Singapore IP (VPN is on dedicated servers so no transparent proxy attached; IPs in other countries are okay but Singapore IPs will be faster in this case); 3. set up the VPN on the DD-WRT router; 4. set up the DNS routing service to the DD-WRT router; 5. Now any device (desktop, laptop, smartphone, XBox, Chromecast etc) connected to home network can use DNS routing.
Solution #3: ISP
It’s exactly the same as solution #1 or #2, but done by ISP (Internet Service Provider) at your most convenience. You don’t need to set up anything on your computer to unblock Hulu’s geographical restriction. Cool!
But probably not by stagnant giants like XxxxHub or XxxxTel. Only those midge broadband providers may offer such value-added service to attract young folks. So there are ViewQuest’s Freedom DNS
and MyRepublic’s Teleport^^^.
^^^ Gone missing from MyRepublic since 2016.
Still, please remember, Hulu could blacklist any solution above someday; and you know, IDA (Infocomm Development Authority, now Infocomm Media Development Authority, IMDA) may also block any VPN or DNS service someday. Try at your own risk!