Not long ago, I wrote that Hollywood has played "keepaway" with viewers when it comes to streaming some of its most popular television shows. Well, I take that back. Hollywood actually tolerates all sorts of streaming by sites not operated by or affiliated with the major networks, accessible through Rovi's (Nasdaq: ROVI ) SideReel guide.
SideReel does steer users toward TV downloads and streams from network sites and other approved providers. However, the site also tracks less legitimate sources for entertainment. One SideReel page offers more than 50 links to streaming sites hosting episodes of The Big Bang Theory, none of which are operated by the show's network home, CBS (NYSE: CBS ) , or its production company, Time Warner (NYSE: TWX ) .
While I can't stream The Big Bang Theory from Amazon.com's (Nasdaq: AMZN ) Instant Video, Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iTunes, or Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX ) , SideReel has more than enough links to fulfill my craving for geektastic comedy. The sub rosa sites it catalogs seem like the video equivalent of Napster in its heyday of illegal music downloads. Perhaps that's why Hollywood insiders cited by GigaOm describe the sort of sites SideReel aggregates as pirates. SideReel's links to them must create friction with studio lawyers.
As a fan, I'm thrilled by what SideReel offers. As an investor, I can't see how Rovi gets away with actively publishing pirate links for much longer. But since this has been going on for years, I find it equally mystifying that CBS, Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS ) , and NBC Universal haven't inked more streaming deals. Can't these studios see the demand? Should investors use digital ineptitude as an excuse to dump these and other Hollywood stocks?
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