After this story was released earlier this week, an Ars reader speculated that the problem was most likely due to the activation of VMP (Verified Media Path) on CBSi’s Widevine server. Similar to UEFI Secure Boot, Verified Media Path ensures that content is only provided to browsers with an approved, verifiable “authentic” framework. This is configurable behavior. By default, platforms that have not been checked may receive licenses.
This morning we asked CBSi executives to inquire with their engineers if this was the problem. Although we received no response two hours later, CBS All Access on Google Chrome was successfully played on several Linux distributions. (Firefox is still crashing.) At the moment, we have checked that the fix – which may or may not affect VMP – covers the entire content of CBS and not just the first episode of Picard that CBS released on YouTube yesterday for one limited time. If we hear an official word from CBS about what happened behind the scenes, we will update this post accordingly. The original story appears unchanged below.
As of this month, the CBS All Access streaming video platform is home to popular shows, including The late show with Stephen Colbert and now Star Trek: Picard– Work on Linux PCs was stopped, regardless of the choice of browser. Ten years ago, this would have been just another day in the life of a Linux user, but it’s a little surprising in 2020. We were originally pointed out by some angry readers, but found it quickly in multiple threads Reddit, Batch exchangeand anywhere else that Linux users would gather.
I am both a Linux user and a CBS All Access subscriber myself, but I was not aware of the problem because I am doing all my own observations on a Roku. Technically speaking, the Roku is an independent Linux PC – but CBS has its own app in the Roku store that works perfectly.
When I returned to one of my own PCs, I was able to quickly confirm the problem: the automatic playback of trailers and even the ads work – but the actual content is not played on any Linux desktop PC in a browser, including Google Chrome. When immersed in the Chrome Web Console, HTTP 400 errors (bad request) are displayed when the browser tries to obtain a license from CBS. Widevine Backend.
In the past, some websites and services have deliberately blocked access from Linux User Agent strings because it was incorrectly assumed that this would reduce the support load if the service itself actually worked properly. This does not seem to be the case with the CBS All Access problem. Changing the user agent in Chrome or Firefox has no effect on the error sequence when trying to play content.
The strange thing about these DRM errors is that Widevine – the DRM system used by CBS All Access – is a Google creation. It usually works perfectly on almost any platform you can think of. Disney +, Netflix, Google Play Movies and Hulu all use Widevine – and all of these features work fine in Google Chrome on Linux. So we’re a little confused about what happened at the end of CBS All Access to damage things, although the service explicitly states that it doesn’t support Linux.
In further tests, we can confirm that CBS All Access in Google Chrome does not work on Android or Safari on iOS devices – although there are certain apps available on both platforms that work. We also found that the service no longer works on the new Chromium-based version of Edge from Microsoft. It’s worth noting that this will likely soon be the default browser for almost every new Windows PC sold.
In the meantime, Linux users have a functional workaround: CBS All Access is available as an add-on subscription to Amazon Prime streaming video. So if you need All Access on your Linux PC, you can unsubscribe from your existing subscription, log in to Prime and start a new subscription there. There the content is reproduced perfectly if you use the Amazon system instead of that of CBS Interactive.
Ars asked CBS Interactive to comment. One manager replied, but no answers were available at the time of going to press.