Stations’ joint effort brings streaming BBC shows to websites

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A scene from the current season of Dr. Who, one of the shows public TV stations can offer on their sites if they have streaming rights.

Doctor Who and other BBC shows can now be offered on websites of public TV stations with streaming rights. (Photo: BBC)

A joint effort among PBS and five member stations has created a more efficient way for stations to offer online streams of British imports such as Doctor Who and Death in Paradise while honoring BBC restrictions that limit web streaming.

The BBC’s agreement for streaming programs besides Masterpiece limits access to viewers within a station’s market. But COVE, PBS’s online video platform, does not allow for filtering by location, which hampered stations’ ability to offer BBC content.

Those restrictions made for an “unmanageable” situation, said John Decker, director of programming at KPBS in San Diego.

But stations are now using a new web page created by PBS that allows for location-based filtering, and five stations have agreed to handle uploading of BBC content to ensure quality and prevent duplicative uploading. The arrangement was announced by Julius Cain, v.p. of syndication sales for BBC Worldwide North America, in an Aug. 11 post on the PBS Station Products and Innovation blog.

“By using COVE and Bento, together with . . . geo-location services, PBS Digital makes delivering the BBC titles via VOD as painless and practical as possible — without additional cost,” Cain wrote. “This solution will satisfy the geo-location requirements surrounding VOD rights and give stations a means to manage their BBC VOD library very easily.”

Before the change, stations uploaded programs into COVE as local content. But as more  stations showed interest in adding streaming BBC shows, it became clear that COVE could become loaded with dozens of duplicative copies of shows.

“We realized that with 30 to 40 people wanting to do this, it wasn’t the most efficient way to make this work,” said Ron Pisaneschi, g.m. of Idaho Public Television, who spearheaded the effort to find a way to add BBC content to his station’s site. “So we did a bunch of back-and-forth to try and work this out.”

The solution ended up coming from PBS, whose digital team created a separate, customizable Bento web page with geolocation that could plug into station’s existing sites.

“It is so much better,” Pisaneschi said. “And I have to give kudos to PBS for working on this. They didn’t have to do this, and it’s not even their programming.”

The five licensees handling the uploading are Twin Cities Public Television, Vegas PBS, Wisconsin Public Television, Idaho Public Television and KPBS. Others with streaming rights include Arizona Eight, WGBH, New Hampshire Public Television, KQED and New Mexico PBS.

Shows in the catalog include series like Scott & Bailey, Wodehouse in Exile and Red Dwarf X and documentaries like Sahara With Michael Palin.

The demand for shows has been strong and consistent, Decker said, with the programs  regularly among the most-watched content on KPBS’s site.

“The audience really wants to see these shows, even if they are limited runs,” Decker said. The section on KPBS’s website featuring video sees heavy traffic, Decker said, and “we wouldn’t have gone through with this if our interactive department didn’t feel there was a lot of demand.”

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