Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Enough is enough! We need to come together and put an end to this nonsense of blocking streaming videos based on country of origin. The very same douchebags that gripe about China, Cuba, Venezuela or Iran blocking some websites from being displayed are also behind the commercial powers that cause so much content to be blocked based on where you are accessing it from.

I understand all the arguments for the blocks that exist today, and they mostly stem from broadcast licensing, but it is hurting the medium and resulting in diminished viewing of content to the detriment of the content creators.

While I have noticed this problem for some time, it only really started to bother me this past summer during the Olympic games when I was prevented from viewing the opening ceremonies as they were going on and instead had to wait until NBC, who had both the television broadcast and internet broadcast rights, decided it was time for America to see what the rest of the world had seen 12 hours earlier.

This archaic model of licensing out one company in one country to broadcast content makes some amount of sense in the television model, where the cost to broadcast is a fixed cost and the return on investment stems from how many people you can get to watch during the allotted time. It wouldn't make a whole lot of sense for the NBA to allow 3 or 4 networks to broadcast the final game of the playoffs because that would result in all the networks splitting the viewing audience of a closed market.

But we don't like in a quaint little "Leave it Beaver" world anymore. Times have changed, technology has advanced and the global audience deserves global content. Content providers should look past the short term money they can make by charging extra for country-specific exclusivity deals and instead look towards meeting the demands of their audience who want to view their content from a myriad of different sources.

Unlike Television, which consists of a fixed cost by the network to broadcast no matter how many people decide to tune in, internet streaming puts additional costs on the broadcaster for each user that is watching. In a way, this should be a disincentive to hold an exclusive online streaming license for content because it means that everyone in your market is forced to log onto your servers and add operating costs to your IT infrastructure. It's also conceivable that the servers of one particular company in one country might not be sufficient to provide high quality streams to all the people in the market that demand that content therefor causing the viewing of that content to suffer for the audience.

This petty blocking of streaming content across borders also degrades the consumer's ability to practice brand loyalty. When traveling abroad those viewers that would normally watch something on television are prevented from watching that same source as they travel and must instead hunt around for a local source, which may or may not exist.

Breaking down these licensing borders would be a strong test of our supposedly free market, capitalist system as it would allow the broadcaster with the highest quality transmission and production to attract the biggest audience. It would also enhance the global community by providing more shared experiences between people all around the world.

It seems that even as technology to deliver high quality streaming content has improved, the availability of content from beyond one's borders has diminished resulting in a dangerous regression that threatens both the sustainability for content providers to hold onto their increasingly fickle audiences as well as straining the content providers in the busier markets.

And while all of this may seem selfish on my part, the fact remains that the CBC just does a better of commenting on Hockey than FoxSports Atlanta ever will.

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