Decisionmark, a company that has helped direct-broadcast satellite companies make sure that local TV signals go to the right viewers, is looking to do the same thing with the Internet.
"Anyone who tried streaming a broadcaster's signal has run into one major issue, and that is that the Internet is global and they were taking local signals and putting them on the Internet," says Decisionmark President and CEO Jack Perry.
That's the reason the 2002 Winter Olympics won't be available over the Internet: The International Olympic Committee has no way of ensuring that the Internet streams of one broadcaster don't conflict with the broadcast streams of another, such as the BBC.
Dubbed Air-to-Web, Decisionmark's recently patented technology isn't expected to be available commercially for 24 months. But the plan is to offer a service through which Decisionmark, for a license fee, will ensure that only Internet addresses within a station's viewing area can access the streamed content.
"Air-to-Web essentially allows a broadcaster to stream a signal over the Internet and reach only those people that would be able to receive the signal with an off-air antenna," says Perry. "So we solve the geographic problem associated with streaming."
Viewers or listeners will point, click and watch the content the same as they do today, he says. "Our technology is inserted between the player and the broadcaster, and it does authorization. So it essentially tunes your device to only those channels you should have access to."
Perry says Decisionmark has begun discussions with major streaming companies on getting the technology into the real world.
"As we sat with this patent through the last Olympics and heard the talk about how the Internet couldn't be controlled locally, we were just wishing we had the patent protection to move forward," he says. "In four years, it's conceivable that someone who has the rights could use it. Local broadcasters win because they can place ads; NBC wins because they don't lose out to other sites with Olympics coverage."