Why can’t you get TV from other local markets?

“Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”

This saying was in common use in the 1800s and was believed to have first been published by Benjamin Franklin. Personally, I agree with it. While other folks love to party through the night, I generally work a while, relax a while, and turn in before the party gets started. This is true whether I’m working in our west coast offices, at our home offices in Novi Michigan, or somewhere else.

That’s one reason I’d love to get my Detroit locals when I’m traveling. It would be great to watch a whole evening of prime time and turn in by 8:30. I’d also love to know what’s going on at home and sometimes I plain old don’t care what’s going on in the city I’m visiting.

You can’t get your locals unless…

One of the pillars of the broadcast world in the last 100 years has been the doctrine of “syndicated exclusivity.” This means that only one network affiliate can exist in each market for each network, and out-of-market programming can’t be brought in. For example, if you’re in Dallas, you’re getting Dallas’ CBS station, not the one from Houston. There’s only one Dallas CBS station so if you want CBS you watch that.

The reasoning here was that if you were in a small market like Springfield, Illinois, you would only be able to make money on commercials if bigger stations like those in Chicago weren’t available. Keeping those distant local stations away protected your advertising revenue. Given the choice, people would probably watch a more slickly-produced news show from a big market than a local one on a tighter budget.

That doctrine served broadcasters well for many decades but it’s beginning to make less and less sense as time goes on. It’s possible to stream some local programming from local station web sites, and network programming is available now from apps. Local stations, for their part, are starting to look pretty darn good so the fear of competition from larger stations is less than it was.

There are also placeshifting apps like those built into DIRECTV and DVRs that let you watch your recorded programming from anywhere, and you’re starting to see streaming antenna products enter the market that will let you watch your over-the-air TV from anywhere.

Of course for our RV and marine customers, there’s also the option of getting a waiver so you can watch distant networks. While this is rare now, the team at Solid Signal are the undisputed experts at getting waivers. If you need one, call us at 888-233-7563.

Signs of change

Recently we’ve started to see some streaming apps begin to show out-of-market locals to people who travel. Sling and DIRECTV NOW are changing the way people experience local TV and there has been some talk that we’ll see these services offer out-of-market locals to their customers. You still won’t be able to get someone else’s local channels, but there’s hope that you’ll be able to watch your own local channels if you are out of your local area. Right now that’s not possible. So in my example I would be able to watch my Detroit locals on DIRECTV NOW even if I’m in the West Coast offices and I will be able to get to bed nice and early.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.