WRAL Pilots Local Net Streaming

Posted Updated

Rick Smith
, Local Tech Wire
RALEIGH, N.C. — WRAL-TV is taking the next step in the delivery of its signal to viewers by offering live local programming over the Internet, but only within its coverage area.

Ultimately, the CBS affiliate hopes to offer the entire CBS lineup and commercials live on the Net and also to sell programs as part of a video-on-demand service.

Capitol Broadcasting Co. President and CEO Jim Goodmon and Jack Perry, chief executive officer of Decisionmark Corp., unveiled a product called TitanCast that delivers virtually instantaneous TV programming through the Web.

Watch the full press conference: Part 1 | Part 2

In a development that enables TV stations to meet copyright and programming requirements, TitanCast restricts Internet usage to computers and Internet Protocol-equipped devices such as PDAs and cell phones that are located within a station’s viewing area.

“We want you to be able to get us live over the Internet,” Goodmon said. “There is going to be more viewing of television on computers, and we want to do it live.”

Through video streaming from its WRAL.com Web site, WRAL has offered Internet users access to news programming it owns for nearly a decade. However, network and syndicated programming, as well as commercials, could not be streamed due to copyright and contractual limitations.

Decisionmark, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has built a database using information provided by the more than 2,000 TV stations in the U.S. The information defines the coverage area for each station.

Viewers who want to sign up for TV via the Internet will enter a credit card number. Decisionmark uses that information to verify the location of the viewer, then grants access to programming that is also available at that location via an antenna.

WRAL sends content to Decisionmark, which houses it on servers that stream programming to approved online viewers. In testing, Perry said there was only a slight delay in the Web signal versus the over-the-air broadcast. There is no charge for the service.

WRAL launched the service on a "friends and family" basis with employees being the first to sign up. It hopes to expand to other users.

“What I’m really excited about is the fact that it’s live on the Internet,” Goodmon said, “although video on demand (VOD) is what everyone is talking about.”

Networks offer downloads of some programs for a fee through sites such as Google and iTunes. Goodmon said he believed the TitanCast technology would be helpful in convincing CBS to grant rights to affiliates to air programming live and to offer VOD while getting a share of revenue.

“We think affiliates will sell a lot more product than what they will do nationally,” he explained. While Goodmon said he has talked with CBS about TitanCast, whether the network will support the technology is not known.

“I think every broadcaster will want to do this,” added Goodmon, who said he watched President Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address on a computer. Decisionmark is already in discussions with the networks about how its technology works, Perry said. “We’re trying to bring all the networks up to speed,” he explained. “Absent this technology, the Internet has no boundaries.”

Even if the networks were to embrace the technology, copyright issues remain unresolved. Congressional action was required for the use of programming and advertising over cable TV and satellite systems. Some two years were needed to secure copyright legislation for satellite systems.

“I think we can work through the copyright issues,” Goodmon said. WRAL and Decisionmark have been talking about the TitanCast technology for six years. It's premier at WRAL was no accident. WRAL was the first to put a commercial high-definition TV station on the air a decade ago and also has helped pioneer digital radio technology.

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