Monday, May 13, 2013

ABC Brings TV Everywhere One Step Closer

In a world where video follows us, the broadcasters have been slow to get on board.  Viewers may like on demand programming, but they also like to be fed video in a linear format.  And ABC has seen the light.  "Marking a first for a broadcast network, ABC on Sunday announced the launch of its Watch ABC app to allow pay-TV subscribers access to live, linear streaming of viewers' local ABC station programming -- including network, local and syndicated content -- starting in the New York and Philadelphia markets."  For both the ABC affiliate in each market and the consumer, ABC live programming will be presented across mobile devices, tablets and smartphones.  And authenticated cable and satellite subscribers will be able to get this access at no additional charge.

This must come as good news for the operators.  It is a first competitive step against Aereo in offering the same streaming video content to their consumers.  Of course, the next step for operators is to package and heavily promote a low cost broadcast only tier and broadband package at a competitive rate to Aereo.  Price sensitive consumers might just come back to cable and new subscriber growth might just reverse the trend cable operators have been facing. 

It is interesting to note that despite streaming the live local market stream to authenticated devices, ABC is not putting the same commercials as TV in their stream.  "The live streams will carry different ads but the same ad break lengths, according to an ABC spokesman."  It has been noted that Nielsen does not measure usage on the streaming side so ABC will sell digital only ads.  TV advertisers might be concerned that they do not get this bonus coverage.  It may also prove a lucrative new ad revenue stream for ABC.

As this streaming app requires new cable deals in the markets being covered, not all operators have revised their agreements yet.  In the New York DMA, it looks like Cablevision, Charter, Comcast, and AT&T, no Time Warner, RCN, Dish or DirecTv.  To enable deals to get signed, ABC is first "previewing"the app in the New York and Philadelphia markets for 6 weeks before requiring authentication.  Sampling is a great way to demonstrate interest and promote usage to all before a potential plug is pulled on unsigned operators in the respective markets.  And a free preview might delay subscribers from signing on to Aereo to quickly. 

For ABC, this push toward live streaming is the next evolution for broadcasters and a welcome step for consumers and viewers.

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