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August 7, 2013

Livestream - Retrans Fight Bargaining Chip?
By Joyce Wang

As the saying goes, “One man’s loss is another man’s gain.” As Time Warner Cable and Journal Broadcasting’s retrans dispute continued the drag, Livestream, which has emerged as an alternative for affected audiences to watch their news, has seen a 300-700% increase in viewership for blacked-out stations, including WGBA Green Bay, KMTV Omaha, KMIR Palm Springs, WTMJ Milwaukee and KMTV Omaha, according to the company. Formerly known as Mogulus, the live streaming video platform offers 24/7 online news channel in those markets, allowing access to content through web, tablets and mobile for free for end users.

“We are providing technology that allows increased distribution for viewers,” said Clayton Rose, general manager of news, in an interview. “The broadcasters want to make sure their content is available to their viewers and we are enabling that ecosystem,” he said. The news streaming is part of the NY-based company’s local news program that spans 35 broadcast stations, all using Livestream to broadcast live and replay their local news. Since it was launched a year ago, the news program has been a popular vertical on Livestream, according to Rose. Currently, the company has more than 9.2 million views and 4.7 million unique viewers watching news content per month.

The news program was created to allow broadcasters to monetize their broadcast content through ads, Rose said. As of today, stations don’t have rights to stream broadcast on air commercials. Instead of charging the stations for streaming their content, the company does inventory sharing with the stations. Currently, CBS, which is also in retrans battle with Time Warner Cable, isn’t streaming news through Livestream, but the company is talking to various broadcasters for streaming opportunities, Rose said. During blackouts, it’s up to the broadcasters to manage viewer outreach and education, according to Rose. Journal Broadcasting stations have provided links to Livestream’s news program on their websites.

Wondering about the technology around the streaming service? Livestream installs an encoder at the TV station and receive a signal which contains video, audio and closed captioning information for every locally produced program. It then compresses the file and recombine all the data back into one stream and send that to the end user through Internet. It also receives signals from stations they begin a commercial break. This triggers Livestream’s ad server to start playing. When the break is over, it slightly delays resumption of the program until the last commercial completes. When the delay grows to longer than 30 seconds it will catch up during the next commercial break. As for rights-sensitive programs like sports, triggers can be set up to prevent the streaming. This process allows it to bypass the station logs and provide automated ad insertion. The streaming works the best for users with 5 Mbps or above connection.
Currently, CBS and Raycom, which are also in retrans battles with Time Warner Cable and DISH, aren’t streaming news through Livestream, but the company is talking to various broadcasters for streaming opportunities, Rose said.

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