Why TV stations can’t use the web… yet

October 7, 2005

Fact: There are 2,396 television stations in the U.S., 100% of which cannot use the Internet as a means to broadcast their signal.

Problem: The Internet is global and broadcasting is local. TV stations must ensure that, were they to use the web as a means to deliver their signal, it would only reach those viewers which would otherwise receive it with an antenna.

Fact: There are 109 million U.S. television households, 70% of which have access to the Internet, 100% of which cannot use the Internet to see local television.

Problem: The Internet is global and broadcasting is local. TV stations must ensure that, were they to use the web as a means to deliver their signal, it would only reach those viewers which would otherwise receive it with an antenna.

Fact: Each local television station owns the exclusive rights to the eyeballs within their over-the-air signal, e.g. no other station can infringe on those rights. By the same token, stations are prohibited from exporting their signal beyond the bounds of their over-the-air reach, e.g. they cannot infringe on the rights of other stations.

Problem: The Internet is global and broadcasting is local. TV stations must ensure that, were they to use the web as a means to deliver their signal, it would only reach those viewers which would otherwise receive it with an antenna.

Back in 1997 we created a technology to not only solve the Internet is global and broadcasting is local problem, but to solve the more pressing issue back then of delivery via satellite (C-Band and DBS) of distant network signals. The problem was that satellite companies were experiencing difficulties with figuring out what channels people could receive. We took what was a 17 month process and made it real time. Today every satellite company, major network and 100% of local TV stations use our Geneva technology to comply with something known as the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act (SHVERA).

While we were happy back then to solve a major problem (those of us who were on Capitol Hill back then know that the network-satellite issue generated more phone calls than the Lewinsky scandal), our ultimate sights were set on solving the Internet problem. Given the fact that broadband would ultimately reach as many households as running water, our vision back then was simple — make certain broadcasters, our broadcasters, are allowed to take advantage of the Internet. Once I saw that we could do it, then it became my mission and my passion to bring local television back to the web.

So, today a television station cannot use the web because the Internet is global and broadcasting is local. Soon, very soon in fact, I expect we’ll license our technology and data to companies wishing to help stations take advantage of the web. That technology — air-to-web broadcast replication — does just what the name implies. It takes the location of any high speed device and replicates the over-the-air channels just as if you had installed an antenna. In doing so it opens up a high speed device to webcasts from ONLY those channels which it could otherwise get over-the-air.

Solution: Air-to-Web broadcast replication makes the Internet local for broadcasting. Who knows, perhaps some day it will come full circle and make broadcasting global…