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Why aren't networks streaming more episodes?

by Jason Hughes, posted Dec 11th 2007 3:44PM
JourneymanConsidering the dearth of new scripted programs, I can't help but wonder why the networks aren't streaming more episodes of their shows online. Why just the last three to five episodes? With a prolonged break between new episodes inevitable, wouldn't it make sense to have more of the existing episodes available online. Especially for shows like Journeyman and Bionic Woman, who haven't exactly lit up the ratings but haven't officially been canceled yet.

But NBC.com has up the last four to five episodes of each. And considering the linear nature of some aspects of the show, especially Journeyman, why not give bored TV fans the opportunity to watch the entire series online? You've already proven you're going to fill up the airwaves with reality dreck.

And I don't want to hear any of this crap about how streaming the episodes online hurts DVD sales because I don't believe they do. I think it's a different desire that spurs someone to watch something online than it does to purchase a DVD set that you will forever more own. I'll watch Pushing Daisies online, and I do love the show, but I don't consider it DVD-worthy for me.

Imagine it's January, the holidays are over and there's nothing on because either the strike is still going strong or even if it's over there hasn't been enough time to make any more episodes of CSI: NY. What's a TV fan to do? I don't know about you, but if I had an Internet connection and I thought I could catch up on a show maybe I hadn't watched (maybe it came on opposite Grey's Anatomy or Private Practice and you couldn't dare switch over), but had heard great things about, I'd love that opportunity. Heard great things about Dirty Sexy Money this year and want to check out what it's all about. Sorry, ABC only streams the latest two episodes of that one.

I think this is a lost opportunity to expand the audiences for these shows. And the advertisers should be happy, too. In one episode of Survivor: China, I saw either a Charles Schwab or Best Buy commercial no less than four times. And I can't fast forward through them. Talk about drilling your message into my skull. I get it, I can get a Best Buy exclusive Guitar Hero faceplate. Thanks!

I know the writers' revenue from online streaming of the shows is one of the issues at the heart of the WGA strike, but getting these shows available and online for immediate viewing, and keeping an entire season's run online until the season is over isn't a bad idea. Maybe someone stopped watching Heroes because they thought it was slumping, but then heard it ended strong (maybe they heard that somewhere!), but now where do they go to catch up? NBC probably won't air the entire season in sequential order as reruns.

I found Brothers & Sisters online during the summer rerun season, and was enjoying watching the first season, as they had the entire thing available. Then, when the Season Premiere hit this past fall, suddenly the first season was gone except for the last two episodes of it. But I was only halfway through! Now I could've gotten frustrated and just said, "Nah, forget it. I watch plenty of other crap!" Other people may have done just that. I didn't but then again, look what I'm doing right now. Ranting and raving about how I need to have more television available for me to watch.

I think the networks are missing out on a golden opportunity to attract new fans for some of their "on the bubble" shows, and more than likely in that coveted 18-49 age demographic as those tend to be your more tech savvy folks. On another note, I think virtually every new show this past season is streamed online, and most of them from last year. So why aren't all shows streamed online yet? Why aren't Smallville, Boston Legal and The Amazing Race streamed online? I missed the first episode of Race this season and haven't watched it because I couldn't find that episode to watch. Do they skew older in demographics (I think the latter two do)? Why put 100% of the new shows streaming online but not every show you air. It makes no sense to me. Sometimes I think television executives are sitting in their ivory towers scratching their heads still wondering what this whole "internets" hullabaloo is all about.

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I was just thinking today when saw the Private Practice was showing the first episode of the season as a rerun, "I should go online and watch all the epsiodes. I've been wanting to watch." For the networks to not stream is just bad management. They are telling their shareholders, 'we don't care about revenue.'

December 12 2007 at 4:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Oh, sorry... one more comment. Hulu's current show availability is basically that of the network sites, so unless they decide to add things when it goes public, the only things you'll see full runs of are old shows. (Battlestar Galactica classic!)

December 12 2007 at 12:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My thoughts exactly! I was able to watch seasons 1 of 30 Rock and Jericho this summer in their entirety, and I came back this season a huge fan of both! Now if CBS would just stop using freaking realplayer and switch to flash like everyone else...

But I am definitely proof of two things: 1) Online streaming of everything makes new regular viewers. 2) Sending nuts to the network does generate enough publicity to get new people to watch your un-cancelled show. Woo!

Oh, and Cheesehead, you'll be happy to know Hulu has closed-captioning, so whenever it goes public, you can watch there.

December 12 2007 at 12:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Nathaniel's comment

Actually, I'm on Hulu and nothing is captioned.

December 12 2007 at 1:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Okay, I figured it out. Hulu is sometimes captioned. The player is capable of it, but most shows don't have it. Bones does, though. Take a look at the latest episode. There's a little "CC" logo in the usually blank space between the timer and the volume. I guess I saw that and just assumed it was on everything. I recommend you send feedback asking for that on everything, since it is on some... since they produce the CC for everything over the air anyway, it really shouldn't be an issue.

December 12 2007 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
AJ MacReady

I honestly don't know why they don't do it with more episodes than they do, but the networks DO have entire seasons online sometimes. That's how I saw the first 11 episodes of Jericho last year, on the CBS Innertube site, became a fan and never missed it from then on. The same with NBC having the entire first season of Friday Night Lights online; I watched all of that through the month of September cause a friend finally got me to watch it. I got hooked, watched the first couple eps of the new season they also had available, and now I watch it every week.
It seems to me that, especially with shows like Life and Journeyman (which I got my girlfriend caught up with online), there's no downside there - just more potential viewers.

December 12 2007 at 12:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

THANK YOU! I've been wondering the same thing. I wanted to go back and watch Pushing Daisies from the start, but, no, not an option. Had to pursue, um, other means. Talk about a missed opportunity on the networks' part.

December 11 2007 at 9:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, first of all, the networks don't own all the shows that they air. I think Boston Legal is owned by Fox Television (not FOX the network; a sister company) and ABC/Disney might not have paid for the online broadcasting rights.

That is why more of these shows are not streamed: Streaming them online is considered a form of "broadcasting" and, therefore, additional licenses and residuals must be paid out to the copyright owner and talents. Online broadcast deals are typically not negotiated beforehand (it is, after all, a relatively new medium for the TV industry to get a handle on). This is one of the major issues that the WGA is striking over (and which the DGA and SAG could probably strike over, as well, next year).

December 11 2007 at 9:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well, if the strike contines to drag on, I'm sure the channels will be looking to repeat shows... So why not rerun the ones that need the extra boost?

Honestly, streaming would be nice if they added closed captioning on them as well. The CC is why I'll stick with watching the shows on my TV.

December 11 2007 at 8:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was kinda hoping for an answer to the question.

December 11 2007 at 7:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JJ Forde

I have been hoping that its limit is a result of is beta status and once it is done all we will see all of a season appear. But that might be overly optimistic. At least its a large variety in a central location.

December 11 2007 at 5:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I've been wondering about this too and sending in feedback to hulu with no response. I wanted to try to start watching Life, but the earliest episode I could find was episode 5. I guess if I ever watch it, it will be Netflix for me.

December 11 2007 at 5:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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