Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Stay Free on the Web, Thanks to a Hulu Loophole

If you want to catch up on old episodes of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” on the shows’ own Web sites, you’re out of luck: Owner Viacom has pulled them down as a tactic in a fee fight against DirecTV.

But you can still watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert online, for free, without breaking the law: Just head over to Hulu, which has about a dozen episodes of each man’s show.

The discrepancy exists because Hulu’s expensive contract to re-air the shows doesn’t tie it to availability on Viacom’s own site. That’s a difference in Hulu’s basic agreements with its three primary owners — Disney’s ABC, News Corp.’s Fox and Comcast’s NBC — which means, more or less, that anything those broadcasters put up on their own Web sites also gets shown on Hulu.

But it’s hard to imagine that it’s going to matter a whole lot to most Colbert and Stewart fans, since most of them watch the shows within a day or two of their original air date. And both shows put out out their last new episode on June 28.

The two-week vacation ends on Monday, and if DirecTV and Viacom still haven’t settled at that point, then, in theory, the fight would be a boon for Hulu. But again, it will be more of a bummer for DirecTV customers, who will have been paying for access to shows they can’t see.

Meanwhile, if you just want to watch some Colbert and don’t want to open a new browser window, we’re happy to oblige. Here’s the June 28 episode, featuring the not-so-camera-shy Aaron Sorkin:

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus