The television and broadcast industry in Canada are, simply put, a bloody mess and it may only get worse if Hulu fully flexes its muscles.
On the one hand you have the CRTC and the broadcasters squabbling over the fate and financing of local television
On the other hand, you have the most recent report from Comscore on Canadian online video viewing habits – it is through the roof. According to Comscore 21 million Canadians viewed 3.1 billion videos online in February 2009. That works out to about 10 hours per month per Canadian a 53% jump. The vast majority used Google or Youtube (53% share) , followed by MSN (1.8%) and Yahoo(1.5%)
The only Canadian media company to register was CTVglobemedia at 0.8%. Granted Canadian companies do use Yahoo and MSN as distribution channels for their content.
However, none of the broadcasters as far as I can tell are contemplating collaborating on a Hulu type model to meet the challenge of the Youtube. Hulu by the way is now the number 3 video site in the USA, leap frogging past Yahoo.
Hulu of course is not officially available in Canada but it is easy enough to access by downloading an easily available proxy.
One of the reasons Hulu is not available are those pesky things called contracts – between US producers and networks and the Canadian Media companies. Territorial restrictions in the broadcast contracts (many of which include digital rights) prevent Hulu from streaming into Canada – a potentially lush secondary market.
If I was an executive over at Hulu here are the questions and calculations I would be making
1) When do these contracts expire? And are the digital rights the distributors hold negotiated in perpetuity? If so, who ever gave that up committed the biggest blunder in media history.
2) If Hulu can actually secure digital rights can they then stream directly into Canadian households, while granting broadcast rights to the Canadian Networks for those shows? (likely not)
3) At what stage will streaming directly into Canadian household become more lucrative than negotiating these contracts?
Now, none of this will happen overnight but there will soon come a day when the delivery of those American movies and TV shows will make sense economically and technologically – but for those contracts it already does make sense.
The only thing the Canadian Broadcasters can do is somehow convince Hulu that they can serve the exact same function for online sector as they do currently for the television sector - as a reseller of American content.
In the short term Hulu may well work out a deal with distributors but in the long term I wouldn’t bet on it.
If they fail to come terms or if Hulu eventually phases out Canadian Broadcasters out of the equation? What will be the future of the Canadian Private Broadcasting?
Meanwhile, I use the proxy server, and stream Hulu on my HD TV and more more of my friends do exactly the same thing.
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