Licensing agreements between countries, merchandising revenue and other complications -- many of them having to do with non-television streaming of content -- can keep you from immediately accessing your content when you want it. Every business that touches your programming, all the way down the line, needs its piece of the pie, and that can mean delaying availability.
For example, a series usually releases its latest season on DVD a month or so before the next season premieres. This provides a way to generate excitement, and advertising, through two different streams: Marketing the DVD means reminding people of the show's oncoming premiere and new episodes, while advertising for the new season gives people a reason to relive the last season, or catch up if they've fallen behind. Making that content available online immediately, even for a price, would cut into those physical profits.
But it works both ways, especially for shows that cross the Atlantic. Some British networks are fast-tracking solutions to get their content to America, for example, because their hit shows are being downloaded illegally by American fans before they're available for American stations to air. That means that not only is money lost for the American partner network and its advertisers, but the program is also less lucrative for the original producers and studio.
And vice versa. There are American shows, such as "House," with specific restrictions on when and for how long they're available online. This happens due to responsibilities the show, and the studio that makes it, bear to their financing partners, the show's home network, and agreements that may have been signed years ago but aren't renegotiated. Every show might have a different, specific distribution scheme designed to maximize profits: It could be that the show has an older audience that would prefer DVDs over watching online, or that the show is only a hit in certain regional markets.
Let's take a look at how things vary in these regional markets.