ABC Declares War on Cord Cutters with Live-TV App — Delayed Streaming to Follow

ABC is really hoping you'll hang on to your cable subscription, and is taking a couple of new steps to make sure of it.

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ABC is really hoping you’ll hang on to your cable subscription, and is taking a couple of new steps to make sure of it.

This week, the network will add live streaming video to its iPhone and iPad apps, the New York Times reports. However, the feature will only work if you have a cable or satellite-TV subscription.

That’s not all. The report also claims that in the future, ABC will “withhold its most recent TV episodes from the free versions of Hulu and ABC.com, further limiting access to paying subscribers of cable and satellite providers only.”

ABC’s existing iOS app offers on-demand TV shows only. The addition of live TV will let cable and satellite subscribers watch local news or talk shows in real time, and from anywhere within their local broadcast area. The Times’ story mostly focuses on this new feature, describing the work that went into it and how ads will work.

But the idea of delayed streams for ABC shows is more mysterious. The Times’ story doesn’t say when ABC will begin holding back its streams, or how long nonpaying viewers will have to wait to see new episodes. An ABC representative would not provide any additional details to us.

At the moment, Fox is the only major broadcast network that delays new streaming episodes on Hulu and its own website. To get next-day streaming, you must subscribe to Hulu Plus or have a cable or satellite subscription. (Not surprisingly, the delay caused a big spike in piracy for Fox shows a couple of years ago.)

ABC has been interested in the idea for a while. In 2011, Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of Disney (which owns ABC), said the company would “push the window back or make access to the programming more difficult or later, except if customers are authenticated as a subscriber.”

If ABC follows through, it’ll amount to a big pushback against cord cutting, the concept of throwing out your cable or satellite subscription in favor of cheaper streaming options.

cordcutting

Nielsen

Although cord cutting isn’t new, it’s picking up steam, especially among younger demographics. A recent survey by Nielsen found 5 million zero-TV households, compared with 2 million in 2007, with nearly two-thirds of the group under 45 years old. By rewarding cable subscribers, and punishing cord cutters, ABC is hoping to prevent — or at least slow down — the collapse of the traditional pay-TV business model.

Lately, broadcasters have become nervous about Aereo, a service that lets you stream broadcast TV to phones, tablets, laptops and set-top boxes. Aereo’s service, which uses microantennas stored at the company’s own facilities, exists without the blessing of companies like ABC. Broadcasters have tried suing Aereo, but haven’t been able to shut it down, so now they’re trying to compete in various ways. While ABC tries its own streaming apps, CBS recently invested in Syncbak, a company that handles mobile streaming for local broadcasts.

Broadcasters have also threatened a nuclear option of sorts. Fox, CBS and Univision have all said they’ll consider pulling their shows from over-the-air broadcasts if Aereo succeeds in court.

Although it’s good to see companies like ABC competing on features rather than merely making threats and filing lawsuits, artificial barriers to protect cable and satellite TV aren’t going to squash cord cutting. Nielsen’s recent survey on the phenomenon found that only 18% would consider subscribing to TV services, and the most popular reasons not to subscribe were cost and lack of interest.

In other words, cord cutting isn’t about replacing everything you’d get with a cable subscription, but about finding enough other things to do. And when you’re on a phone or a tablet, there’s plenty to do besides watching talk shows or local news from ABC. Live streaming may compel some users to hang on to their cable subscriptions, but it seems unlikely to lure younger cord cutters into expensive TV packages. At best, this is a short-term solution to a very long-term problem.

29 comments
Annetwork
Annetwork

There is plenty to watch online. There is no reason to limit ourselves to the few shows these networks decide to restrict cable cutters from seeing. I use Rabbit TV to see all my other options. I like watching when I want to watch. www.rabbittvgo.com

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

What does ABC have that anyone wants to watch?


aria.ellis
aria.ellis

Sorry,but this is about so much more than a few episodes of ABC. Have you all forgotten a few years ago when the goverment mandated all network TV change to digital, they promised set top boxes so free TV would still be available. The boxes didn't work. I went though 3 in a month before I gave up. I lived in a metropolitan area with several local network broadcasts. The only one I could count on was PBS- three PBS channels. Everywhere I went, I was told I needed an outside antenna that cost over a hundred dollars. Set top boxes don't work at all for the millions in rural areas. The FCC needs to stop Fox and ABC from punishing us or making us pay. This is not the deal we were promised. The only way to get TV in rural areas (like where I live now) is to pay cable companies or stream online. This is supposed to be free like it used to be with analog. That's what we were promised. Not this "oh you're a lower-class person if you won't pay for cable, so you can't see it yet." Everyone, and I mean everyone should file a complaint with the FCC. The government herded us all into this... and now the cable companies are coming out on top. Sound familiar at all?

MedC
MedC

Oops, that was Hulu, but still, same place I used to watch the next day.

MedC
MedC

I just found out I couldn't watch last Wed- Friday's GMA on Hulu Plus, which I pay for already! without a cable subscription!?!?  This is nuts! I have to pay for Hulu Plus AND a cable subscription? They already have commercials on Hulu Plus too.  I only watch two shows on TV, that I could get on Hulu Plus a week ago the following day, I'm not going to pay for cable/satellite so I can watch 2 shows!  Why would any of the network stations care about whether we have cable?  

DwayneAdams
DwayneAdams

They will lose... Because choosing not to give Cable your money is power. Just record ABC shows OTA via DVR. Problem solved. They can't delay OTA. ;)

John
John

We are moving to a different house near larger city, but aren't quite ready to make thevwhole move just yet. Guess what? The old set of rabbit ears which I almost threw away pulls in 17 stations as clear as can be. We are giving serious thought to not getting back on the cable bandwagon.

AdamSmith34
AdamSmith34

If ABC only had something to watch, I might be angry.  The network is a vast wasteland.  However, here is a suggestion: Maybe these networks could embrace cord-cutting.  There is no reason why they can't make it profitable.  Take the BBC, for instance.  I love a lot of the science and history programming on the BBC, but I can't subscribe to it outside the UK.  They simply don't make it possible.  If it were possible, I would fork out $10 per month to access it on the Internet, thereby reducing the horrid TV tax Britons have to pay.  Nope, they're stuck to the old model.  Wake up or die, networks!

MatthewAllen
MatthewAllen

IT seems like they need to take adds off there network then where they make the money the there going to make sure the viewer is going to pay to watch it to. ABC wants the money not the viewers !!!!!

MurphyBelle
MurphyBelle

Streaming Players Club on Facebook..Everything Roku in one place. You Tube, Channels, links, news and hard to find Roku info. From beginners to pros, we have what you are looking for.."FREE"

acodemonkey
acodemonkey

I am not buying a cable subscription. Neither are a lot of young people these days. ABC can either figure out how to make money off of the new model, or lose business with that demographic.

JohnMazza
JohnMazza

ABC making it difficult for people to watch their shows? Oh yeah, there are a thousands of websites people can watch them for free.  Why make is more difficult for you to get your product out there? What, are you stuck in 1982, ABC?


uncoveror
uncoveror

No big deal. There is nothing worth watching on ABC. It is garbagevision.

LoxNBagels
LoxNBagels

Nice try, major TV network.  Take away my online subscriptions, and it's back to torrenting.

tsmc
tsmc

Does anyone remember 'Over the Air' programing?

I still use it!

atg284
atg284

Wow how boneheaded is ABC...This will just make people download more instead of paid streaming. Good job guys you are punishing the people that actually pay to watch online!



cambullrun
cambullrun

I haven't had cable in years. Absolutely no need. Everything important to me is streamed online (ex. Presidential Debates)  and I don't have to pay for crummy side channels like VH1 or TRU. Screw all the major television stations for not EVOLVING WITH THE MARKET. 

cunningham.cd
cunningham.cd

If I have a TV I don't need to pay for cable to watch ABC. The shows are commercial supported. Why can't I watch commercial supported TV online? I like Once Upon a Time and Shark Tank, and watch them online, but I stopped watching Fox shows when they pulled them from Hulu, and I'll stop watching ABC shows when they pull them from Hulu. ABC will lose the ad revenue from me as an audience member because they no longer have no-cable online watching as an option.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Don't be fooled by any of the gimmicks. Abc and every network is evil, and just wants you as their slave. Tv is just watching others live life. That is all. It rots the mind. Throw your tv in the dumpster, or some environmentally friendly place I guess, since those nuts are everywhere now.

Get rid of your tv and you will find it will introduce a measure of peace and serenity into your life. Tv is just mindless and stupid noise from an electronic machine. It never did anybody any good, and it is the domain of the feeble-minded buffoon.

AllenHeffley
AllenHeffley

I got a great idea to increase cable subscription if they are so interested. MAKE IT AFFORDABLE. HOW ABOUT GETTING RID OF A COUPLE OF YOUR ANNOYING ASS COMMERCIALS? 

I haven't had cable for years. Before streaming Netflix I was getting Netflix movies in the mail and going to Red Box and using my free Digital TV for local channels. Netflix is what $7/month, no commercials and all shows for the entire series? Why can't cable come down from it's all mighty $60/month and a million freaking commercials

JoellynCarpenter
JoellynCarpenter

Gee the people that still have cable households are all the folks in the demographic TV broadcasters are not interested in marketing to. If you are not 18-49 you can forget it. Even thought adults in there 50's would have more money to spend with kids out of the house.

CharlesBoyer
CharlesBoyer

Younger people would likely be less averse to having a cable or satellite subscription if they could get a la carte services and purchase only the channels they want to see.  The television providers are loathe to this, as are content providers, because ultimately that will limit their revenue streams.  That's where cable-cutting came in, and now the empire is striking back.

Ultimately, however, in the democracy of the marketplace, the customer will win.   ABC is simply delaying the obvious here and they will only hurt themselves in the long run.

AlliedoesPR
AlliedoesPR

I'd love to see a major network embracing us young cord cutters. Being in NYC, it was easy to hook up a cheap antenna for over the air broadcasts and supplement my TV watching with Hulu Plus and Netflix. I understand losing cable subscribers is going to be costly and networks aren't ready to abandon the standards package, but some acknowledgement that this is a serious trend would be very interesting to hear. I did agree that seeing ABC try to compete with features and not lawsuits was refreshing -- but do you know if any of the major networks seem to be making moves towards embracing this trend? Or at least not trying to squash it? I don't want to pirate TV shows, there has to be a middle ground somewhere, some day, right?

JoseGonzales
JoseGonzales

@aria.ellis I got a $25 credit card looking piece of plastic that I used to buy a $40 box years ago resulting in a cost of $15 to me.  It's still working fine, much better than the old fuzzy analog.

newmanjb
newmanjb moderator

@slant53 Yes, that was supposed to read 2007. Fixed now, thanks!

newmanjb
newmanjb

@JoellynCarpenter In fairness, it's 25 percent of about 5 million "Zero TV" homes in the 25-34 demo, vs. 14.5 of about 95 million cable/satellite homes. But yeah, you'd think that offering legal, easily-accessible, ad-supported streaming video to the Zero TV crowd would be the way to go, rather than push them toward piracy or other non-video activities due to draconian delay periods or arbitrary paywalls. Someday the TV industry will get it, maybe.

LoxNBagels
LoxNBagels

@AlliedoesPR Ironically, they would get more revenue if they just offered their own premium subscription service on their own site instead of sharing with cable networks.