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A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.

NPR Politics presents the Lunchbox List: our favorite campaign news and stories curated from NPR and around the Web in digestible bites (100 words or less!). Look for it every weekday afternoon from now until the conventions.

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The Afterlife Of A TV Episode: It's Complicated

Oct 23, 2012

Have you ever seen a rerun episode that made you want to watch more of a show — even a whole season? With so many TV channels and so many shows to keep up with, it's possible that some of them could completely pass you by.

But there are also many ways to watch a show, even if it's no longer on the air. Take the medical drama House, which ended its run on FOX in May.

To watch an episode today, you could go to Netflix, where you can pay $7.99 a month to stream videos. But it only has House DVDs. So you go to Hulu. It has a few episodes. If you pay for Hulu Plus — which costs the same as Netflix — you can watch the final season, the one where House goes to jail.

On Amazon Prime, you can buy all eight seasons of House for $1.99 a show, or on iTunes for $2.99, says Mike Proulx.

"So that's gonna cost you over $500 if you want to watch all the seasons, if you've never seen the show before," he says.

Proulx co-wrote Social TV, a book about the new ways we're watching television and how baffling it sometimes is to find the shows you want.

"It is really complicated for the end consumer," he says, "because it changes constantly based upon the deals that are being made with television networks."

To watch House on old-fashioned TV, you can see reruns on the USA Network, and on a cable channel called Cloo, which is all mysteries and crime. Cloo is owned by NBC Universal — which, as it happens, also owns House. And it sells the rights to rerun House to local broadcast affiliates around the country.

The arrangement is partly to blame for the inconsistencies, says media analyst James McQuivey.

"Every one of these local markets is saying, 'Well, those reruns aren't worth anything to me if they're suddenly all available on Netflix,' " he says. "And so the owner of the program says, 'Hmm, how do we make sure Netflix maybe gets one season?' "

Hulu gets half of a season of House, and Amazon and iTunes get the show on demand, but only at a certain price. And while broadcast syndication is important, cable reruns are even more important.

"The biggest single source of revenue for the video business is cable," McQuivey says. "That's the biggest single source of revenue where they can point and say, 'Those cable companies, they're footing the bill.' "

So when it comes to House, NBC Universal will do what it takes to keep cable networks happy, he says.

NBC Universal makes a lot of money off of House through digital and international sales. And it's about to release the complete box set on DVD. Quaint, right? DVDs used to generate massive revenue — but that stream has basically dried up, Proulx says.

"Who wants to be dealing with the cost of packaging, waiting for delivery, having to go to a store to purchase it — exchanging cash?" he says.

Of course, some people don't pay at all. And when it comes to House, that's quite a lot of people, says "Ernesto Van Der Sar," the pseudonym of a Netherlands academic who tracks illegal downloads on BitTorrent. He says that for the past five years, House has been one of the top 10 shows that are downloaded illegally.

"From the top of my head, it's probably a million downloads for each episode," Van Der Sar says. "It's huge numbers, and that's only BitTorrent."

You also have direct streaming sites such as The Pirate Bay or Rapidshare. But watching videos illegally is kind of like Whac-A-Mole. You never know when a show will get posted, or when it might vanish.

I asked analyst James McQuivey when the studios will give us legal ways to watch House anywhere, anytime on any screen.

"That's at least five years away," he says, "because the owners of House are going to do everything they can to prevent that."

Still, NBC Universal would be wise to consider a little wisdom from Dr. House himself:

"It's one of the great tragedies of life: Something always changes."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now, for those who have had their noses deep in books and not, say, in front of a plasma screen TV, you might have missed some great shows out there. The good news: There are plenty of ways to tune into a show that you missed even if it's no longer on the air. As part of MORNING EDITION's How We Watch What We Watch series, NPR's Neda Ulaby walks us through one example of the many ways you can find a show once it's completed its run.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Say you're flipping channels. You run across "House" on your local FOX affiliate.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE")

HUGH LAURIE: (as Dr. House) 12:52 p.m., Dr. House checks in. Please write that down.

ULABY: Great show. You want to watch another one. You pay Netflix 7.99 a month to stream videos, so you check there first. But it only has House DVDs. So you go to Hulu. It's got a few episodes. If you pay for Hulu Plus, which costs the same as Netflix, you can watch the final season, the one where House goes to jail.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (as character) Doc, what you need? Got some new girlie mags.

LAURIE: (as Dr. House) I was thinking of something more Vicoden-y.

ULABY: On Amazon Prime you can buy all eight seasons of House for 1.99 a show, or on iTunes for 2.99, says Mike Proulx.

MIKE PROULX: So that's going to cost you over $500 if you want to watch all of the seasons, if you've never seen the show before.

ULABY: Proulx wrote a book about the new ways for watching TV and how baffling it sometimes is to find the shows you want.

PROULX: It is really complicated for the end consumer, because it changes constantly based upon the deals that are being made with the television networks.

ULABY: Here's what deals mean when you look for "House" on old-fashioned television: You'll see reruns on the USA Network and on a cable channel called Cloo - it's all crime and mysteries. Cloo is owned by NBC Universal, which, as it happens, also owns "House." And it sells the rights to rerun "House" to local broadcast affiliates around the country. That, says analyst James McQuivey, is partly to blame for the inconsistencies.

JAMES MCQUIVEY: Every one of these local markets is saying, well, those reruns aren't worth anything to me if they're suddenly all available on Netflix. And so the owner of the program...

ULABY: That's NBC Universal.

MCQUIVEY: ...says, huh, how do we make sure that Netflix maybe gets one season?

ULABY: While Hulu gets half a season and Amazon and iTunes get "House" on demand, but only at a certain price. And while broadcast syndication is important, cable reruns are even more important.

MCQUIVEY: The biggest single source of revenue for the video business is cable. That's the biggest single source of revenue where they can point to and say, ah, those cable companies, they're footing the bill.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE")

LAURIE: (as Dr. House) Do you have cable TV here somewhere?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as character) No TV, but we've got patients.

ULABY: So when it comes to "House," NBC Universal looks at cable networks and says...

MCQUIVEY: We'll kind of do whatever they say and if that means denying Netflix their chance, we're OK with that.

ULABY: Netflix and every other form of digital distribution. Now, when you add it all up, NBC Universal makes lots of money off "House" through digital and international sales. And it is about to release the complete box set on DVD. Quaint, right? DVDs used to generate massive revenue, but that stream has basically dried up, says author and analyst Mike Proulx.

PROULX: Who wants to be dealing with the costs of packaging, waiting for delivery, having to go to a store to purchase it, exchanging cash?

ULABY: Of course some people don't pay at all - quite a lot of people when it comes to "House," says Ernesto Van Der Sar. That's the pseudonym of a Netherlands academic who tracks illegal downloads on BitTorrent. He says for the past five years, "House" has been one of the top 10 most illegally downloaded shows.

ERNESTO VAN DER SAR: From the top of my head, it's probably around a million downloads for each episode.

ULABY: Most people download episodes within a week of when the shows first air.

VAN DER SAR: It's huge numbers, and that's only BitTorrent.

ULABY: You also have direct streaming sites such as The Pirate Bay or Rapidshare. But watching videos illegally is kind of like Whack-A-Mole. You never know when a show will get posted or when it might vanish. I asked analyst James McQuivey when the studios will give us legal ways to watch "House" anywhere, anytime, on any screen.

MCQUIVEY: That's at least five years away, because the owners of "House" are going to do everything they can to prevent that.

ULABY: Still, NBC Universal might want to consider a little wisdom from House himself.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "HOUSE")

LAURIE: (as Dr. House) That's one of the great tragedies of life, that something always - it always changes.

ULABY: Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.