TV Readies For Live Streaming Realities
Broadcasters might look back on 2013 one day and call it the year of streaming.
In the past three months, all four major television networks unveiled and started rolling out streaming strategies that bring local and network programming to mobile devices, while restricting the reception of live content to devices in a station’s market.
“Nowadays, if you’re not streaming, you’re behind,” says Mike Nann, director of marketing for Digital Rapids, one of several streaming vendors in the industry. [Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Mike Nann was VP of marketing. He is director of marketing.]
ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox clearly understand that sentiment as they’ve watched controversial streaming video provider Aereo win key battles against them in court. Aereo takes free, over-the-air television and streams it to subscribers who pay $8 per month. Broadcasters have tried, but to no avail, to shut down the company in court, claiming Aereo steals their content and infringes on copyrights.
Vendors of the technology that’s powering these streaming strategies say streaming is disrupting the traditional TV environment.
“I think it’s really big,” says Ken Brueck, co-founder and CMO of UpLynk, a streaming service provider that’s powering ABC’s new Watch ABC app, which was released in May. “There’s all this conversation about cord cutters, Aereo, Netflix and there’s so much uncertainty because there really hasn’t been a good way for consumers to get all the content they want in one place and while on-the-go.
“If you’re a Netflix-only person, it’s fantastic for on-demand content, but there are some tradeoffs. You don’t get your sports, you don’t get your news, you don’t get live content … to me, [ABC’s strategy] is a step in the right direction of letting consumers everything they want in one place.”
Watch ABC uses a TV everywhere model, which means cable and satellite cord-cutters are out of luck. Users must authenticate the app using their pay TV provider user information to gain access to the live content. It’s a business model where a broadcaster can increase its retransmission fee to the cable operator for the extra incentive their customers would get in return, and then use a portion of that extra money to pay for live network programming.
On-demand content of popular shows is typically available 24 to 48 hours after its live broadcast over-the-air and available to non-pay TV subscribers.
Streaming local and network programming to the app isn’t a big technical challenge; it’s working out a deal to get content rights that’s difficult, says Dave Boylan, chairman of the ABC affiliate board.
“We’re happy that we’re moving together, as network and affiliates,” Boylan says. “But now the real discussions begin. The model we all have in mind is a linear stream simulcast — whatever you see over the air you see streaming. But we need the licenses to stream not only the network content, but also the syndicated content.”
Fox and NBC are following ABC’s lead with the TV everywhere model. Fox hopes to launch their service this year, while the peacock network is aiming for a mid-2014 launch.
“We have a lot of details to work out, but the idea is technically the same,” Ted Harbert, NBC Broadcasting chairman, says.
CBS, for now, is taking a different approach to its streaming strategy. In April, the network announced it has made a minority investment in streaming video provider Syncbak, which streams local and potentially network content if an affiliate can strike a deal for rights to the CBS programming. If it can’t, for example, get the rights to Big Bang Theory, the local station could replace the time when that show airs with alternative programming.
Syncbak detects a user’s location by using a mobile device’s built-in GPS and restricts reception to that market only.
CBS executives declined to speak further about the deal, only saying they’re still in the testing phase and trying to figure out what the best business plan is for the technology.
Some of the nation's biggest station groups are also readying their streaming strategies. In June, Nexstar Broadcasting announced it would use Syndicaster for online video at its 61 television stations across 41 markets.
"You have to be able to keep the news flowing throughout the day," Ion Puspurica, executive VP and GM of the Media Service Group for Critical Media, Syndicaster’s vendor, told NetNewsCheck earlier this month. "Most of the usage is going to be bits of news that are released throughout the day as they happen."
Syndicaster provides video services for more than 30% of TV stations and more than 200 newspapers, processing about 65,000 hours of broadcast video on a daily basis, Puspurica said.
Gray Television recently picked Anvato to stream live and on-demand news at the group's 31 stations. Anvato lets broadcasters insert user-targeted ads, complete TV Everywhere capabilities with full closed captioning, edit clips in the cloud and manage rights rules for content replacement.