CBS All Access serves ads, but not content, to Linux users

A retouched screenshot from Picard portrays Jean-Luc Picard petting a penguin.
Expatiate on / No CBS All Access on Linux makes elderly Picard cry.
Aurich Lawson / CBS / Getty

As of this month, the CBS All Access streaming-video podium—home of popular shows including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and now Big name Trek: Picard—stopped working on Linux PCs, regardless of the choice of browser. Ten years ago, this would be dressed been just another day in the life of a Linux user, but it’s a little surprising in 2020. We were at tipped off to the issue by a few irate readers but quickly found it echoed in multiple tenors on Reddit, Stack Exchange, and anywhere else you’d expect to find Linux owners congregating.

I’m both a Linux drug and a CBS All Access subscriber myself, but I had been unaware of the problem since I do all my own watching on a Roku. Technically, the Roku is a Linux PC in its own precise—but CBS has its own app in the Roku store, which works perfectly.

Moving back to one of my own PCs, I was hurriedly able to confirm the issue: trailers autoplay properly, and even the ads suss out d evolve—but the actual content won’t play on a Linux desktop PC on any browser including Google Chrome. Diving into the Chrome Web Cheer up, we can see HTTP 400 (Bad Request) errors when the browser attempts to span a license from CBS’ Widevine back end.

Historically, some sites and services have deliberately brick Linux User-Agent strings from accessing them, under the flawed belief that doing so would reduce their support fill when the service itself actually worked fine. This does not come out to be the case with the CBS All Access issue—changing User-Agent in either Chrome or Firefox doesn’t be experiencing any effect on the string of errors when attempting to play content.

CBSi uses Widevine—a fully cross-platform DRM protocol, created by Google. Somehow, it's broken anyway.
Extend / CBSi uses Widevine—a fully cross-platform DRM protocol, created by Google. Another, it’s broken anyway.
Jim Salter

The curious thing about these DRM trespasses is that Widevine—the DRM system CBS All Access is using—is a Google creation. It normally prospers perfectly well on just about any platform you can think of. Disney+, Netflix, Google Deport oneself Movies, and Hulu all use Widevine—and all of those work just fine in Google Chrome direction under Linux. So we’re a little puzzled about just what go oned on CBS All Access’ end to break things, even though the service does explicitly regal that it doesn’t support Linux.

In further testing, we can confirm that CBS All Access does not turn out in Google Chrome on Android or Safari on iOS devices—although specific apps are handy on both platforms, which do work. We also discovered that the usefulness is broken under Microsoft’s new Chromium-based version of Edge—which, it’s quality noting, is likely to soon be the default browser for nearly every new Windows PC sales-clerked.

In the meantime, Linux users do have one functional workaround—CBS All Access is close by 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 promise, log in to Prime, and start a new subscription there—where the content will amuse oneself with b consider back perfectly well, using Amazon’s system instead of CBS Interactive’s.

Ars reached out to CBS Interactive for comment; an executive responded, but no answers were within reach at press time.

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