MSNBC.com Breaks Ranks on Streaming

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When major news breaks, anyone with a computer and Internet access can view the live MSNBC feed for free: No subscription to the cable channel is required.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, MSNBC has periodically simulcasted its television feed on its Web site, MSNBC.com.

Though no cable operators who pay the network a license fee for the channel have publicly complained about this practice, the issue of video streaming has recently sparked some contention between operators and programmers. In June, Charter Communications Inc. dropped ESPNEWS from its cable systems after the MSO tried to place limits on the amount of programming the sports network could stream on the Web.

MSNBC.com executive editor Michael Silberman said the Web site began running MSNBC's cable feed on its Web site on Sept. 11, and stopped running the feed three days later. When the United States and Great Britain launched air strikes on Afghanistan on Oct. 7, the Web site again picked up the live feed.

It continued running the feed, which included MSNBC advertising, through last Monday evening.

"When there's huge breaking news, we do it," Silberman said.

MSNBC's feed didn't contain many reports of breaking news last Monday, though, and also included some lighter features. For example, the Web site simulcasted MSNBC's coverage of anchor Lester Holt taking a ride in an F-16 fighter jet patrolling Washington.

MSNBC rival Fox News Channel doesn't run any streaming video from its cable channel on its Web site, vice president of news information Bert Solivan said. Cable News Network uses streaming video sparingly on the Web, showing events such as President Bush's short address to the

nation the evening of Sept. 11, according to spokeswoman Edna Johnson.

Officials at Charter, which has been vocal on the streaming issue in the past, declined to comment. An executive at another MSO that wished to remain anonymous said his company is placing limits on the amount of content networks can stream on the Web, but noted that most of MSNBC's long-term carriage deals don't contain language that limits the amount of streaming video it can offer.

When MSNBC launched a broadband version of its Web site (broadband.msnbc.com) in April 2000, the site streamed MSNBC's live feed for a few days. When executives at NBC Cable and NBC News learned of the move, they pulled the plug on the continuous live feed.

MSNBC president Erik Sorenson said last week that the network is careful about the amount of live content it offers on the Web. "We lean pretty hard on them [MSNBC.com] to only do that in a crisis situation, and to stop doing it fairly quickly," he said.

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