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Live TV Streaming Apps Might Mean A la Carte Programming

27 Mar, 2013


NEW YORK – The ABC broadcast network is developing an app that would allow live streaming of its shows, The New York Times reports. ABC has yet to confirm the news.

The Times article contends the app would live stream ABC programming to the phones and tablets of cable and satellite subscribers, allowing those subscribers to watch “Good Morning America” on a tablet while standing in line at Starbucks, for instance, or watch “Nashville” on a smartphone while riding a bus home from work. The app could become available to some subscribers this year, according to people briefed on the project, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about it publicly.

With the app, ABC, a subsidiary of Disney, will become the first of American broadcaster to provide a live Internet stream of national and local programming to people who pay for cable or satellite. The subscriber-only arrangement, sometimes called TV Everywhere in industry circles, preserves the cable business model that is crucial to the bottom lines of broadcasters, while giving subscribers more of what they seem to want: mobile access to TV shows. The arrangement could extend the reach of ads that appear on ABC as well.

Wayne Friedman, a reporter with MediaPost, writes that, ultimately, an ABC live streaming app brings consumers closer access to the specific networks they want – a la carte programming.

He adds that such a streaming app gives viewers – especially prospective cord cutters – some new perspective. “They can watch all the regular TV they want without the usual equipment trappings,” Friedman writes. “This can be freeing, especially if other networks move into this arena, since streaming doesn’t have hardware equipment needs like traditional TV distribution.”

The Times reports that Disney already distributes similar live streaming and on-demand apps, known as “Watch” apps, for ESPN and the Disney Channel. Special hurdles exist, however, for the ABC app, in part because of contracts between the network and the companies that produce some of its shows that were written before mobile phone video streaming was even possible. Other complexities involve ABC’s local stations, which might – if not courted properly – feel threatened by an app.

But ABC, seeing shifts in consumer behavior, is pressing forward. It has started to talk with stations about how to include them in the live streaming app. Illustrating the difficult contractual issues, ABC offhandedly first mentioned a forthcoming Watch ABC app in a news release nine months ago, when it signed a deal with Comcast to make several Watch Disney apps available to Comcast subscribers.

But the network live streaming ability is inching closer to fruition, the people briefed on the project said.


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