Dear Google: Television is local. Regards, Chief Titan

January 13, 2006

In my September 13, 2005 blog I wrote the following:

Note to anyone, including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo intending to encode and deliver network programming The backbone of our nations entertainment system is network programming. Each network has approximately 200 local television affiliates which carry their programming and mix in locally created content. Each of these local television affiliates owns the exclusive rights to broadcast content to the viewers which are capable of receiving their signal off-air. Since the Internet is global and broadcasting is local, then you can’t simply “search and deliver”. Search without delivery is just search. I am fairly certain that every TV station in America would be thrilled to participate in search and deliver as long as you preserve the network-affiliate distribution system. Remember, each broadcaster owns the exclusive rights to broadcast in their market, to those viewers which could otherwise receive their station off-air.

So, four months later what have we learned? We’ve learned that Desperate Housewives and LOST are such great shows that Apple is selling them for $1.99 the next day via iTunes. We’ve also learned that CSI and Survivor are such great shows that Google is selling them the next day for $1.99. Thank you Apple. Thank you Google. You’ve demonstrated to us that the Internet is a perfectly good way to distribute content. There is however one way you can make it even better. Include the local broadcaster.

Why include the local broadcaster? Simple. Money. Lot’s of it. How many local broadcasters are going to promote the availability of their content on demand via iTunes or Google? None. How many might end their newscasts with “To see last night’s show visit our website at www.[insertstationcalllettershere].com?” All of them. If network programming is moving to on demand then it ought to be controlled by the very guys who taught us to watch television in the first place…our local broadcasters. Nobody and I mean nobody is in a better position to promote the availability of On Demand Network Content than our local stations.

Is it even possible to include local broadcasters? Of course. In fact, I outlined a solution in my October 20, 2005 blog entry:

“The best TiVo is no TiVo at all”

Wait. Who said that? I did. In fact, I’ve been saying it for years and years. Apple just proved it. Thank you, Mr. Jobs. Broadband has reached critical mass. Nearly every television station in the U.S. is now broadcasting over-the-air at 19.4 Mb/s. Every U.S. household has two pipes – big pipes – entirely capable of delivering data-packets of previously aired programming. You don’t need a TiVo. Game over.

“Houston, we have a problem…”

The backbone of our nation’s system of free over-the-air television is our local television affiliates. Considering the iPod dilemma with Desperate Housewives and Lost, where there is one ABC affiliate there are 191 others. Each of those local affiliates owns the exclusive rights to broadcast to the eyeballs which it can reach with its over-the-air signal. Therefore having just one version of Desperate Housewives available for download ignores the very tenet of our broadcast system, i.e. you need 192 versions.

A solution for Apple (and Google, and Yahoo, and Microsoft, and anyone else entering realm of local television)

It is simple. Really. When a person goes to iTunes to download a previously aired show, give them two options:

  1. $.67, or better yet, FREE, as it aired (commercials intact) by their local station. There isn’t a station in America that won’t encode their broadcast, zip-it-up and send it to Apple. A station can do this for less than a one-time investment of $20,000.
  2. $1.99 without commercials. Send the local station their cut. I’m sure most stations would set up a Paypal account to collect the money in real-time.

Technology exists to handle both scenarios. Using our air-to-web broadcast replication technology (AWBR) a local station’s coverage area is protected even if a broadcast occurs over the Internet. Simple.

Is it too late?

No. Our deployment team could be at Apple headquarters within hours. Way back when SHVA became SHVIA, we deployed our technology at Echostar and DirecTV within hours.

The Geneva (AWBR) technology deployed between Apple and their iTunes customers would ensure that local copyright is protected. I, for one, think the Apple and ABC initiative would be great for local broadcasting if we can get the local affiliate into the equation.

A few final thoughts… I think that everything Google and Yahoo have done to prove that the Internet is a perfectly good way to deliver television content is great. My hat is off to both of them. At the very least we need to allow local stations the ability to deliver content on their own. I’ve been saying for years that the best TiVo is no TiVo at all and the Google/Yahoo initiatives have proved me right. The best, most secure, most consumer and broadcaster-friendly way handle previously aired content delivery is to deliver it via the web.