Owner Jim Goodmon says he needs to make sure that his station’s signal reaches local viewers “on every delivery vehicle.”
WRAL, the cutting-edge CBS affiliate in Raleigh, N.C., today plans to begin streaming its signal over the Internet within its broadcast coverage area on a trial basis.
“We now deliver our programming over the air, over cable and over satellite,” says WRAL owner Jim Goodmon. “I need to get it to them over the Internet.
“I’ve got to make sure my product is on every delivery vehicle,” he adds. “If people are going to be watching television on the Internet, then they should be watching WRAL on the Internet.”
WRAL is introducing its web services in phases. In the pilot phase, which begins today, WRAL will stream only its local programming and only WRAL employees will be able to access it, either in realtime or on a delayed basis. In the second phase, the local content will be made available to all broadband users in WRAL’s coverage area. For the third phase, WRAL envisions also offering CBS network programming, but so far, the station says, CBS has been “noncommittal” about participating.
Streaming will strengthen WRAL, Goodmon says. It simply means more viewership, and, because the medium is the Internet, every viewer can be counted.
Goodmon stresses that the streaming service would be available only to broadband users within WRAL’s over-the-air coverage area. “We are not asking to put it on the Internet for the people in China. I am not expanding my market.”
The ability to restrict the streaming distribution to a station’s broadcast coverage comes from Decisionmark, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based company with a vast database that knows the address of every home in every TV station’s coverage area.
“Local broadcasters will finally be able to take advantage of all the capabilities presented by the Internet,” said Decisionmark CEO Jack Perry in a prepared statement. “The local nature of over-the-air broadcasting and the worldwide reach of the Internet are no longer mutually exclusive. Viewers will have a viable platform that grants them unparalleled convenience and accessibility to content that is available both in real time and on-demand.”
Goodmon acknowledges that going beyond the initial phase may require Congress to expand the compulsory copyright license to include market-restricted streaming. Right now, the license only covers cable and satellite TV.
“This isn’t any different than being on the satellite or cable,” Goodmon says. “You can only pick it up within our market.”
Like other network affiliates, Goodmon is interested in partnering with the broadcast networks in the selling of individual network programs via the Internet and cable. Using the same basic Decisionmark technology, he says, the affiliates could promote and market the video-on-demand shows within their coverage area.
ABC and CBS have national VOD deals in place. ABC is selling downloads for iPods through Apple and CBS is making shows available for a fee through Google. The two networks are in active discussions with their affiliates about sharing revenue and the affiliates’ becoming local marketing agents.
“We should be partners in selling this stuff,” Goodmon says.
Goodmon is a bit skeptical about consumer demand of CBS downloads and other VOD offerings, noting that most people can tape CBS programs and watch them at their convenience “for nothing right now.”
But if there is a market, he wants to be a part of it. And he doesn’t think that VOD will diminish WRAL viewership. In fact, he says, it should help. “It’s more people watching the program,” he says. “That interest in the program will keep them coming back to the program [on WRAL].”
Goodmon says that he is confident that broadcast outlets will remain “the place to introduce a show and establish it and make it the subject of a national conversation.”