Why don't TV stations stream their programs?

I can’t think of why not. A bigger audience means more money.

Do you mean the actual TV stations or the networks? The networks do stream select TV shows. ABC is trying to expand theirs for many popular shows for instance. The TV stations can’t do it because they have a contract that only allows them to broadcast shows to a well defined, geographical audience. A CBS station in Cleveland can’t just give away CBS programming to the whole world for example. There are many shows that are streamed to the web in general however.

A lot of them, in my experience, are streamed only to the American web, and will refuse connections to, say, a Canadian IP address :frowning:

Most places I’ve worked have streamed their 6 pm news, but not much else – too expensive.

On a similar note, many radio stations stream their programming – both local and syndicated – but they omit the commercials. Why would they do that?

In local TV and radio, these issues are related. Streaming a newscast involves several additional expenses, beyond actually serving the video:

  • Talent compensation. Many on-air folks have specifically worded contracts that don’t include netcasting.

  • Music rights. Most music licensing is also very specific and doesn’t include online use without substantial extra fees.

  • Commercials. Radio and TV both recognize the internet as the future of their industries. Including commercials in streaming program amounts to giving away the advertising, which is a bad precedent to set, long term. For now, a commercial embedded in a stream isn’t worth much, compared to on-air, so advertisers aren’t that interested. Cutting out commercials requires staffing to handle it.

The CBC streams all sorts of stuff. As does the BBC. But I think you have to be paying BBC license fees to get the BBC’s stuff.

I think this is a Canadian issue. Doesn’t Canada have a law saying that a certain percentage of television content has to be Canadian? I seem to recall that it was illegal for Canadians to get American satellite tv. They may be extending this to the internet.

Local broadcasters live and die on their ability to deliver local ratings. A station that would have to compete not only with other local stations but thousands of internet sources would not be able to sustain itself. Sure, local stations would love to stream their programs, but they don’t want anyone else to.

Syndicators depend on local stations’ belief that the programming they purchase, say Jerry Springer, Rush Limbaugh or even Paul Harvey will get good enough ratings to offset the cost and provide a profit. Syndicators do not want their programs streamed either and prevent this contractually with the local stations.

Therefore locals usually only stream their locally produced programming, and are also prevented from streaming commercials. At my station we stream our local news but cannot stream sports, as the highlights portion is tightly controlled by contract.

Yes, the CRTC does mandate a certain percentage of Canadian content on Canadian radio and television. But that does not apply to the internet.

What’s at stake are rights. If you’ve got a Canadian IP address and you can’t watch a show from a US site, that’s because a Canadian broadcaster bought the full Canadian rights to the show, whether it wants to stream the program or not.

CTV did this last year with Daybreak. It bought the show in full, then stopped airing it halfway, and never streamed the video. ABC eventually put the full show up online… but Canucks were prevented from watching, because it would break territorial rights.

Plus, when did you ever see streaming video that actually worked? I’m sure most TV stations don’t want to be associated with the constant “buffering” messages, jerky video, entirely blank grey rectangles, browser crashes, plug-in demands and other irritants that are an integral part of the streaming video “experience”.

RTÉ, the Irish national broadcaster streams certain programmes.

Someone will be in here with a more detailed answer, but a few years ago the radio actors union demanded high rights fees to stream the commercials. Stations who wanted to continue to stream online simply omitted the commercials.

I was specifically interested in watching hockey games on the internet. CBC streamed some playoff games last year which was great.
Why don’t they stream every game?
I’ll often see links for hockey streaming on Yahoo sports but the stream is not available in Canada. Does anyone know a way around this?

You make is sound like streaming is expensive. Once the show is produced. the cost of steaming should be minimal.
I don’t understand why syndicated shows would not allow streaming. If Oprah provided all her shows on the internet, she would get more people watching. A savvy advertiser could buy advertising space relatively cheap.

Are you trying to say that commercials do not have a value on the internet, that somehow the viewer could bypass them or they do not have the same impact they do when viewed on television?

Yes, yes and yes. Right now, TV stations make a tiny fraction of their ad revenue from their websites. TV airtime is still premium stuff. A medium market TV station brings in $30-50 million a year in ad revenue, maybe a million of that online. You’ll be hard pressed to find a local web site that can approach those numbers.

The expense of streaming is not the point - the point is that all content on ad driven media is merely filler between the commercials. The better the filler, the more people turn on the program and the better ratings the commercials get. Therefore the more money the stations and syndicators can charge.

Stations and syndicators do NOT want cross market competition, it drives away revenue. Billy Bob’s Ford Dealer of Podunk, Missouri does not care that a viewer from Florida is watching a streamed program, that viewer will not shop at his dealership and he represents no gain of audience share to him; he will not pay the station for that viewer.

Local stations, TV or radio, sell the idea that they are a local commercial outlet for local products and consumers. WWW is detrimental to that sales model.

Cheap advertising does not benefit the ad seller and therefore is not the goal of the station or syndicator to provide it.

Do you understand the real costs of streaming?

The cost is not in the production, or technical equipment. The cost is in the internet connection. I read somewhere that a 45Mb/s connection can support about 600 connections, and costs thousands per month. Compare this to a broadcast system, where a single transmitter can reach 10s of thousands of viewers. This is why most TV on demand systems are using some sort of peer to peer system, to distribute the bandwidth costs across the users/ISPs. And ISPs don’t like it.

To support BBC content, ISPs in the UK already have big peer pipes and mirror servers to the BBC. Google uses big local mirrors as well. Eventually, the VideoOnD emand systems will have to move to local ISP p2p/caching systems to cope with the bandwidth requirements. I personally think that you could adapt the Usenet infrastructure with authenticated access for video distribution - it does the job already and could easily be adapted for localised seeded peer2peer networks.



I’ve found ABC’s streaming video to be pretty darned good. I generally watch Desperate Housewives and Lost on-line the night after they air, and those problems have occasionally happened, but not disruptively often.