TV broadcasters rely on the fees they get from subscribers (via the cable operators) and advertising to make money.
It has certainly been a big business but it is eroding quickly — see cord-cutting, cord-nevers, unbundling, YouTube, etc
If their channels were online, they would instantly expand their reach to the entire world (dependent on content restrictions) and reach an exponentially larger audience. They would also directly control their broadcast (no cable operator) and could have a bouquet of offerings like a free live stream, a subscription for premium features, and video on-demand.
And with all that real-time data, broadcasters and their advertisers could sell goods directly to consumers via e-commerce. And of course, they would still have traditional in-broadcast advertising, but it would much smarter and therefore much more valuable advertising.
Online video has made impressive strides in recent years. The threat to broadcast TV is coming from some interesting places, many of which are (unsurprisingly) outside of the traditional industry. One is the emergence of multi-channel networks like Maker Studios and Full Screen. They are rapidly going from being just YouTube channels to having their own presence and identity.
However, even these companies do not offer a 24/7 live stream (though Diddy's new effort, Revolt.tv, will do exactly that). Broadcast TV could jump ahead of them – immediately.
At creativeLIVE we are certainly doing our part to push the vision of live TV forward (by the way, the photo below is from one of our classes in action). We are live broadcasting educational content for 7 hours every day (between 9am and 4pm Pacific time). Our live broadcasts are social and interactive via chat, Twitter and Facebook integration into the class. They are global with over 190 countries having tuned into past classes. And they are free when it is live and you only need to pay if you want to own a copy of the class. Believe me, we are all about data to make the experience better.
I can tell you that a few broadcast execs have asked me what we are doing. They partly think we are crazy to have something akin to a live reality program on all day long (it is hard and risky). But they are also impressed that we are doing this with education. We are making education entertaining by having it live streamed and look like broadcast TV.