ABC said that more than 160 of its 200 affiliate stations have joined the ABC Clearinghouse initiative the company announced exactly a year ago. Variety reported that DirecTV Now, Sony PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV and CenturyLink are licensing ABC channels through the clearinghouse.
The publication added that Sinclair Broadcast Group, Scripps Co., Hearst Television and Tegna Media are among the major broadcasters that have signed on to the clearinghouse.
ABC used the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention last year to unveil Clearinghouse, which it dubbed a new program that will see the network hammering out deals with authenticated streaming platforms for its local affiliates. Now ABC is reporting the progress it has made during the past year on Clearinghouse.
“Our goal was to pioneer a creative distribution solution that reaches ABC viewers in as many markets as possible,” Ben Sherwood, Disney-ABC Television Group president, told Variety. “More people will be watching more of our programming on more devices because of these deals. We want to be everywhere our viewers are. The enthusiastic response to this is a win for our affiliates, our distributors, our network and our studio.”
To be clear, ABC is not alone in pursuing such a strategy. Already, CBS has marshaled its own affiliates for its CBS All Access OTT video service. And NBC and the NBC Television Affiliates Board announced a new deal earlier this month that will allow local TV broadcasters to opt in to NBCUniversal’s carriage agreements with new OTT streaming services and for TVE distribution rights.
According to Variety, Fox is also moving in a similar direction.
Interestingly, Variety reported that ABC’s Clearinghouse effort in part relies on technology that it said will make it easier for affiliates to deliver their streams to various platforms. Indeed, Hulu is reportedly preparing its own streaming TV service, and others such as Amazon and Apple have reportedly been eyeing such offerings. The situation could likely create a strain on affiliates that need to plug into a large and growing number of virtual MVPDs.
Variety noted that affiliate owners signed on with the clearinghouse in order to simplify their retransmissions negotiations; they have the option to support only those distributors they wish to work with. The agreements are also licensed on a per-subscriber basis, rather than a revenue-share basis, and are limited to relatively short time frames so that both parties have the opportunity to renegotiate as needed.
The success of ABC’s Clearinghouse doesn’t come as a total surprise. The content-licensing space has grown increasingly complex during recent years as players including Dish Network’s Sling TV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now work to offer live TV channels streamed over the internet. The result in some cases has been haphazard channel availability as some TV station affiliates opt out of the streaming service.