Now contrast this to what could be possible online, if Star Trek was available, every episode of the entire season, people could watch it when they wanted to. They would not have to tune in to a specific time and would not have to wait 24 hours since they would never "miss" episodes they can queue up at any time. Additionally, by interspersing the online episodes with single commercials, the potential number of viewers of all the displays of the ads across all of the possible episodes being displayed 24 hours a day could easily swamp the impressions made across all the areas on tv. They would be making ad revenue continuously throughout the day instead of at specific intervals in the day, they would be able to satisfy the desire for viewers to watch the show at the time of their choosing, be able to take advantage of repeat viewings by enabling people to watch mult-part episode arcs and season open/close finale sets without season breaks. Finally, and probably most lucrative, would be the ability to watch episodes in places that make tv viewing impossible. Viewers with laptops and smart phones could watch from and to work or vacation. The ability to gain an impression would no longer be restricted to the living rooms of people's homes but would go with them where ever they went. These would allow users watching to stay on the site as they watch, at the same time, the site could be used to mine the viewership of precisely the type of shows they are interested in, they could mind series for particular times of the year to see if there is a correlation with the type of show, they can use this data to inform their new series production directions. Ultimately, putting the old series online would allow them to better target newer series to a much wider audience. As they begin to reap the rewards of this open series concept they would see the potential of being really bold and doing the same for currently running series. Why should the latest episode of CSI only be available online at hulu.com , the day after it originally airs? Why isn't available at the same time? The people who watch it on tv, will do so, the people who watch it online will do so, but giving the option , allows the tv viewers to catch an episode they missed online at any time they wish. The broadcaster would again be able to mine the metrics of the episodes in a much better way than is currently by buying analysis data from companies like Neilsen, with their own sites they could mine their own data and wouldn't have to pay for a third party for the analysis.
I think the media companies are still trying to make sense of what the internet means, the devastation that availability of mp3's made to the music media companies is only going to repeat itself in video IF the companies don't take the reigns and control distribution of their media online instead of letting the pirates do it for them. Already, signs are in place that some of the companies get it, but it is not bold enough a move, with only partial lists of episodes for many series that first aired 20 years ago. It's not an issue of encoding either, original shows could be encoded to HD quality video for online streaming in very short time using an average pc. The media companies have some other motive for restricting their set of options but they are only ultimately , restricting their ability to derive revenue from their archives while missing out on the chance of being THE online destination for watching cherished shows from the past, at any time desired for the small fee of suffering 4 or 5 30 or 60 second spots between the episode segments.