Jumping into the stream

A January report from DFC Intelligence (www.dbpwebcasttrack.com) shows that video streaming on the Internet grew by 215 percent in 2000. More than 900 million streams were accessed. Of those, almost 29 percent were handled by broadband delivery. In addition, the report said that as much as 15 percent of available stream inventory included "in-stream" advertising.

Does anyone besides me smell opportunity here?

The report's author, says that right now broadcasters are missing a great streaming opportunity. Currently, local stations' websites have miniscule audiences. Despite a relatively high audience rating for their on-air signals, most stations' associated websites are visited by relatively few people.

That's not the same case when comparing OTA broadcast news with cable broadcast news networks. For example, ABC's broadcast news program has a significantly higher audience rating than does, for example, CNN. However, Colombo points out there is what he calls a "ratings inversion" when you look at websites. In other words, CNN's website audience ratings are higher than ABC News' website ratings.

This dichotomy reflects a challenge and an opportunity for broadcasters. It means that local stations' webcasts are not likely to become a significant factor in audience attraction or revenue generation. Merely repeating what you do on-air won't drive audience to your site.

Making your site "larger" than your on-air broadcasts is the key to setting your website apart from its competition. For instance, how much of your syndicated programming is available on your website? How about any locally produced, non-news programs? Do you have agreements with any other stations, perhaps fellow affiliates, to share programs for your Internet sites? Why not?

To really grow a station's Internet presence, there will need to be a cooperative business model developed by local stations. There will need to be groups or even supergroups of stations that combine to produce and cooperatively share (read: syndicate) their programs.

The FeedRoom is a good example of how stations can work together to enhance the online news experience. By exchanging news stories from stations around the country and combining with international partners like CBS, Reuters and USA Today, affiliates gain programs that can be used to enhance the profile of their websites in the market.

And with NAB coming up, there's no better place to find the how-to hardware. The show will be filled with new products to help you create, edit and stream programs to the Web. Recently announced Web solutions include the FlipFactory from Telestream, the WebSTATION from Parkervision and the 7000 series of products from eStudioLive. These products have been specifically targeted to those who already have content but need efficient ways to repurpose it to the Web.

During the next year, Broadcast Engineering will be highlighting the work of some of the leading edge stations out there. If your station is doing some interesting things on the Web, drop me a note.

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