Senator Ludlam asked:
Is there a policy whereby after a certain period content is removed from the website or are you starting to hold that material in perpetuity?
A number of factors affect SBS's ability to make content, including its substantial collection of archived programs, available on its website. While SBS is keen to offer as much content as
possible online, SBS does not receive any appropriation for its online activities and has to assess its priorities on this basis.
There are five main factors which determine the way in which SBS programs are stored and displayed online:
1. License cost of the content.
2. Available license period for the content.
3. Cost of preparing, managing and archiving the content.
4. Cost of storage and bandwidth associated with consumers viewing the content.
5. Relevance to audience.
SBS Online intends to offer as much programming online as the SBS budget and licence agreements allow in order to:
• build loyalty with existing audiences;
• cater to generational behaviours in media consumption (‘on demand' behaviours);
• exploit the delivery opportunities provided by broadband;
• reach out to new audiences.
However, SBS is facing significant constraints on all counts given the minimal funding available to cater to the growth of SBS Online and its role as a distribution platform for SBS programming
in the future.
At present SBS Online offers approximately 70 per cent of SBS Television's acquired prime time (6pm-midnight) programming and 80 per cent of SBS-commissioned programming as a fulllength
‘catch-up' service. SBS Online's goal is to provide 100 per cent of all SBS programming as an on-demand service, as well as live streaming of selected broadcast events.
Depending on the rights SBS is able to secure for both commissioned and acquired programming, SBS Online is able to make the programs available on the SBS website for a period of between
seven days and up to one month after broadcast. As SBS generally buys a licence in programming, program makers are only ever willing to offer
an online licence which corresponds to the broadcast window, for example to allow a ‘simultaneous broadcast'.
News and Current Affairs
In the case of news and current affairs television programming, SBS offers all programs ondemand, as well as range of ‘feed‘ services from the BBC and CNN. World News Australia stories are only offered for a period of three days. This window is determined by relevance of the content and the prohibitive logistics and storage costs involved in storing thousands of news clips per year. Episodes of Dateline and Living Black are offered online for a period of two years and episodes of Insight for a three year period. SBS would like to be able to make available as an online service
the entire archives of Dateline, Living Black and Insight, however SBS currently does not have the resources to digitise and upload these archives to the SBS website.
Web hosted storage costs
In addition to the production costs involved in publishing material online, there are two main costs associated with making video content available on demand:
1. Storage costs.
2. Bandwidth costs.
SBS Online pays to have its sites hosted by an external service provider, the monthly costs for which include data storage. SBS's appropriation has not been increased to reflect these new costs, therefore it does not have the budget to provide an entire and perpetual archive of SBS programming on its website.
CDN bandwidth costs
SBS would like to make more material available either on-demand, or as a live stream, however SBS is significantly constrained by the costs charged by content delivery networks (CDNs) for
delivering the material. As an indication of these costs, SBS offered the Tour de France broadcast as a live stream online. Over the 21 days of the event 245,000 live streams were served. The cost from the CDN for the live streams alone (not including the 2 million highlights clips that were served) was
It is in this context that SBS Online must be reasonably selective about what it can offer online as it is only budgeted for current levels of output. For example SBS has the rights to offer both live
streaming and full on-demand services for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. If SBS were to achieve the size of audience anticipated (an audience of two to three million people online) the bandwidth
costs for serving video to that audience could be as much as, or more than, the total amount of revenue earned through online advertising from the event. However SBS currently has no extra budget (other than what it earns through advertising revenue) to stage the event as an online video broadcast.
Other potential offerings and limitations
SBS is the curator of a valuable and unique legacy. SBS has a substantial collection of archived programs produced by and for SBS Radio and SBS Television, representing the most
comprehensive visual and aural record of multicultural Australia in the country. SBS does not however have a centralised archive function. While SBS's newsroom in Sydney is being
converted to a fully digital set-up, SBS does not have the functional or financial ability to cope with ingesting SBS's legacy tapes.
The potential for further use of SBS's archived content is broad, and includes reusing program assets online, facilitating research and fair dealings and unlocking commercial revenue
opportunities. SBS has been able to use some of its archived content on its website, for example some program material has been repurposed for the food portal on the SBS website. There are however significant barriers to achieving greater public accessibility and reuse of SBS's archives. The main barriers are the lack of resources to deal with ongoing preservation and maintenance, and contractual and copyright restrictions which mean that the clearance of rights for digital reuse of content is extremely complex, time-consuming and in some cases impossible.