With all the hullabaloo over streaming antenna services, it seems like at least one of the major broadcast networks as caught onto the fact that online is where it’s at for many viewers. Starting this week, ABC will begin streaming live feeds to its Philadelphia and New York audiences. The app will first check to see that you live in a currently serviced area, and then start the live stream. Oddly, despite the fact that you’re watching a live stream from the network, you don’t get the live commercials. It looks like all advertising is exclusive to the internet feeds. What you also don’t get are the digital subchannels, so if your local ABC station carries programming you enjoy on a .2 or .3 channel, it’s not there yet. The service is expected to expand quickly to other markets over the summer, reaching 100% penetration of network owned stations by the time ABC’s fall lineup is launched.
Steve Jobs often spoke of wanting to re-invent TV, and according to most sources his solution was creating apps for each individual channel. While there are certainly problems with this approach — the lack of channel surfing, the long time it takes to switch channels, etc. — it certainly has its appeals for the broadcasters, for both of those reasons.
The real downside to all of this, though? Starting July 1, you’re going to need a cable subscription to continue to stream ABC, in much the same way that HBO GO operates. Why we can’t just PayPal them the nickle or whatever is beyond me, but it’s the nickle that this app seems targeted at. Aereo does not pay re-transmission fees to the networks, which is the main reason the networks are fighting that service, and in the case of ABC, offering their own. (Philadelphia, a gigantic market, is about to get Aereo, so the timing seems a bit convenient).
At any rate, it’s nice to see at least one network taking charge of its own streaming destiny.