90% of TV Shows Were Freely Available Online Last Season

90% of TV Shows Were Freely Available Online Last SeasonAccording to recent research by Clicker, that's the fact of the matter. 90% of 2009-2010 broadcast TV was on Internet. It makes me wonder what the other 10% was and if they include places like PBS and C-SPAN.Would you believe that 50% of episodes from the season were online within 24 hours of original air date and that 60% of the were offline within three weeks? Well you should, because that's what Clicker found. They also found that up to 90% of them go offline within six weeks. They stated that there was no set pattern and hypothesized that perhaps this might be a new model for Free-mium content. My thoughts on the matter are thus: Put the content online after the air date for one month, free or ad-supported (after all to watch it on TV is free is it not? and that is ad-supported) After that it could then be archived into a pay-to-view system which is essentially video-on-demand with a reasonable price tag. This would probably cut down on piracy drastically, well in the markets where the content is made available.

Much of the US TV content that ends up online from the broadcaster is locked down to US-only IP addresses. That then forces people to seek out pirated versions of the content for viewing post air date if they are not in the US. I'm not condoning it, I'm just stating a factl. It the broadcasters were smart(er) they might make licensing arrangements for first run online in the original language (English in this case) and then hook up with some worldwide video ad networks (like Tremor) and allow the content to be seen outside of the country, perhaps with a slightly higher ad-per-minute rate than normal to make up for the most-likely lower ad revenue.

Hell, even I would sit down and watch that content, ads and all, just to get it in a timely fashion (say for one week after original air date) and in HD. That's something to take note of broadcasters because I'm fairly bull-headed on things like watching ads on what I believe should be freely available...like television shows.

Alright, so back to Clicker's research which only covered free streaming (meaning it's mostly limited to the US and does not include  paid downloads or VOD streaming from Netflix, Amazon or iTunes.

84% of the 4,420 full-length episodes that were published online were primetime (109 of 127 shows). 11 primetime shows were not published online, the NFL properties were not included and they counded daily shows - Late Night, Leno, etc) as one show per week.

Who's winning the TV to Online Race?

90% of TV Shows Were Freely Available Online Last SeasonThe short and long of it is The CW who has 100% of their shows online (09/10 season). Next are NBC, ABC, FOX and then CBS based on percentages. The broadcaster with the most shows online was ABC with about 33 (of 36) while CBS had 3o of their 34 shows online. NBC came in third with 21 shows online (of 24), then FOX with 20 of 22 and The CW with 11 of 11.

How many episodes is that? CBS had almost 1,750 episodes online for the season. ABC about 1,250, NBC just shy of 1,000, FOX about 250 and the CW about 200

As stated previously primetime shows were the majority of online shows with daytime a meager 10% and late night about 6%. Of course daytime and late night are generally daily shows and so put up 5x the episodes per week on average. Meanwhile, prime time shows averaged about 18 episodes each while daytime averaged the highest with over 160 and late night had about 120. This means that 41% of all episodes online were from daytime, 20% from late night and only 39% of them were primetime episodes.

The most episodes a primetime show freely streamed online this season was 11 (or 10, I'm not sure about the graph).  Showing the fickle nature of TV executives, 34 or more shows posted less than 15 episodes this season, most likely due to the 32 cancellations in the season (nice number Clicker).  However, 54 shows did manage 15-25 episodes and 7 managed more than 25.

90% of TV Shows Were Freely Available Online Last Season

Shows of note that were not online include: The Big Bang Theory, The Mentalist, Cold Case, Law & Order (and SVU).

At the time of their research (July 9, 2010) only 635 full episodes were still available online, or approximately 15% for free streaming. The CW, not surprisingly had the fewest (as they have the fewest shows). Interestingly, when a show is canceled, it disappears from online venues...as if the TV execs are trying to hide it from the fans or to remove any sign of their embarrassment and/or involvement heh.

Clicker then seems to sort of get confused as they say that generally, primetime shows only make around 5-10 episodes available at any given time, even when they have over 20 episodes to offer. Then they say since launching Clicker in November most network shows release only 2-6 episodes online at a time. Sure there's a distinction between primetime and shows in general, but 84% of those shows are primetime.

What's it all mean?

Well from an advertising and marketing standpoint, it could mean that there is a market for freely streaming, ad-supported broadcast television show. It could also mean that broadcast could begin to treat online more like they do their other business. By that I mean they could leave shows up as freely streamable on their portals for a limited time and use geo-IP tagging to target ads and generate some further revenue from the shows (not that they really need more revenue right?) It also shows that the broadcast channels are taking online streaming as serious business since every network had more than 85% of their shows online in some fashion.


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About the Author -
Christophor Rick is a freelance writer specializing in technology, new media, video games, IPTV, online video advertising and consumer electronics. His past work has included press releases, copy-writing, travel writing and journalism. He also writes novel-length and short fiction as part of Three-Faced Media . View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • Jeremy Scott

    Wow. That number is... kind of staggering. Would not have guessed it was that high.

  • Matt Dibble

    I, like you, am very strong headed about the ads I watch. I gladly watch ads online to be able to enjoy my shows in that medium. I hope that networks continue to see the power of an audience online and continue to offer these shows for free.

    Do you see a future where they charge for tv shows online? (excluding your thoughts of free for a month then pay, which is a great idea).

    Also, I love to watch Tiger baseball... do you think there's a future for real time sports online? Something akin to Espn's online coverage of the World Cup?

    • Christophor Rick

      Hi Matt,

      MLB.TV already offers real-time games and have for a few years. Meanwhile, the NFL, I don't think ever will because they are so afraid of their license being abused. Of course they didn't even appear to have the presence of mind to register NFL.TV so it's no big surprise. The NHL seems like they could do it next season. They already offer game highlights etc.

      It would be cool, and I would certainly watch ads, to be able to watch real-time sporting events online so long as they let me. Being halfway across the world I don't get to see enough Brewers baseball or Packers football. I don't know that it would ever be free or ad-supported though. I imagine that because every single athlete, coach, team, owner, agent needs to get their share of the dough it will always be pay-per-view. It's a shame that a place like ESPN couldn't strike a major deal to supply all live sporting events online through a pay-per-view portal as well as older stuff on demand because I'm sure they'd make loads of money if they allowed it to be opened to people like me who are fans but not in the States.

      Thanks for agreeing with my idea on TV shows heh. They already charge for shows online. Hulu is testing a premium subscription service, so is YouTube. Shows are sold on iTunes, through Xbox LIVE and the Playstation Network. It's just a matter of, who wants to pay for something they can get for free by hooking their PC up with a TV receiver etc... I don't!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ray-Lane/1269020982 Ray Lane

    I disagree with the part about most episodes being taken offline after a certain amount of time. I don't know if they are only talking about legitimate sources or if......less legit sources count. But I can tell you that until the recent crackdown, you could go to a site like Ninjavideo, pick a show and watch any episode, sometimes going back years.

    • Christophor Rick

      I'm not sure but it sounded like they did Google searches for some of the research which I thought strange. Wouldn't you just ask the content creators? I know I would have.

  • http://www.forth-media.com/ forthmedia

    Go ahead and show me advertisements that I'm interested in. Figure out my demographic, collect anonymous "likes" and "dislikes". Show me fast cars, show somebody else diapers. I'll watch the commercials.

    My biggest problem is time. What if I want to go back and watch an entire season of something I missed, when I want to? If they make it unavailable after a period of time, I watch NetFlix, where the marketing can't reach me.

    I can tell you really understand consumer driven demand, from the "bottom up." It must be that traditional broadcasters are still thinking "top down."