So Why Are So Few Local Channels Available Through Streaming Services? We Explain




The release of Hulu’s live TV service raised a major question among cord cutters. Many cord cutters had expected that because Hulu’s owners include ABC, FOX, and NBC they would be getting their locals through Hulu’s new live TV beta.

So we wanted to sit down and take a look at why services such as Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, DIRECTV NOW, and newer services such as Hulu struggle to get rights to local channels.

#1 Ownership

Ownership of your local channel is one of the main reasons behind why most locals do not stream on live TV streaming services. It is likely that your local FOX or ABC channel is not owned by FOX or ABC but by a third party. These third-party companies buy the rights to air FOX content and use the FOX branding but they are not managed by FOX.

That means services such as Sling TV need to go and get rights from each channel owner. With about 200 different channel owners all looking to get the best possible deal that is time consuming and expensive.

#2 FCC Rules

The FCC is also a big reason behind why locals are not on many streaming services. The FCC has strict rules about broadcasting outside of their markets. They are so strict that if you want to stream a local channel and get rights to stream it you need to stream it from a server physically located within the market.

In short that means the FCC forces you to stream a Chicago channel from inside Chicago. You couldn’t use a server located in a different location. That means to stream local channels services such as Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, PlayStation Vue, Hulu, etc. need to build a network of servers across the United States.

Having a server in the market may not seem like a big issue, but networks have strict rules about the streaming services. They want to know that these servers are locked down to prevent them from becoming a source of piracy.

So what is being done about this?

Two things are being done about this. Networks such as CBS, NBC, and ABC have, in the last month, struck deals to allow the networks to negotiate for most of their affiliates. While that is good news, they still have to go out and make deals with streaming services.

The other big push is an effort to change the FCC rules. There is talk that the new FCC is open to the idea of dropping the requirement that the server be physically located in the physical market.

There are efforts being made to bring locals to cord cutting services. Hopefully soon that will pay off and more locals will come to streaming services.

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