Canadians are turning on, tuning in and watching traditional TV shows on the Internet often using underground ways to access American programming, says a new study.
There's less online content available from Canadian broadcasters than is available from U.S. broadcasters, study author Alan Sawyer said Friday.
The lack of available content is resulting in Canadians using underground activity on to get the TV shows they want to see online, he said.
"A very important thing to realize is that every television program that is broadcast is available in most cases in illegal peer-to-peer broadcasting," said Sawyer of Toronto-based Two Solitudes Consulting.
"Canadians do an awful lot of that. I believe one of the reasons that Canadians do an awful lot of that is that they are not being offered sufficient alternatives."
Traditional TV audiences are eroding as viewers, especially younger ones, turn to the Internet and mobile devices for content, said Sawyer, who noted the popularity of video-sharing site, YouTube.
Major U.S. broadcasters are making between 52 per cent and 80 per cent of their non-news evening and primetime programming available in full-episode format on-demand on their websites, his study said.
CTV offers 24 per cent and Global offers 15 per cent, says the study, which was done in January.
"Canada's private French-language broadcasters offer much less broadcast-related video content than their English-language counterparts, but offer considerably more programming on a broadcast-broadband simulcast basis," the study found.
Sawyer's study is called, Changing Channels: Alternative Distribution of Television Content, and was done for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
The federal broadcast regulator will use the study for background information as it prepares for a hearing into new media next year, he said.
"In my opinion, Canadians aren't watching a lot of broadcast television content online because there's not a lot of it available," he said.
That means a lot of advertisers haven't started to focus on it, he said.
However, Sawyer said because a network buys a show's broadcast rights, it doesn't necessarily give it the right to put the show on the Internet.
Canadians also can't use major U.S. TV network sites to watch shows online due to something called "geo-blocking," he said.
Media companies use this practice to determine a person's location based on where his computer is accessing the Internet.
"So if you are coming from Canada and try to go to ABC's website and you try to watch video there, it's going to say, 'Sorry you're not coming from within the United States. You can't watch this.' "
It's usually done to save money because of the cost of streaming content over the Internet, Sawyer said.
Tech analyst Andy Walker said it's possible to get around so-called geo-blocking but it can be challenging.
Walker said younger people are getting their content from the Internet, either watching YouTube – which is owned by Google Inc. – or figuring out ways to download TV shows and movies legally, or illegally.
"Television is largely irrelevant to Generation Y," said Walker, president of Slurp Media, an online video content production company that produces LabRats.tv.
There's money to be made in online advertising and ads can be customized to the demographic that is watching a particular TV show, he said.
"The larger, more aggressive youth-oriented brands, I think, really get the Internet and the more traditional, staid ones don't. But I think that's shifting. I think more and more, you are going to see people shifting their budgets away from print and television and into the Internet."
Sawyer said on-demand television with few restrictions would help bring viewers back to the TV set.
There's currently a legal battle in the United States that's pitting YouTube against Viacom Inc. and other copyright holders, who have filed a US$1-billion lawsuit against the popular online video-sharing service.
Viacom shows include Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and Nickelodeon's "SpongeBob SquarePants" cartoon.
Via Canadian Press