The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) introduced its Watch ABC app in New York and Philadelphia Tuesday, giving authenticated pay-TV viewers there the ability to watch some of its TV station programming live on iOS devices and the Kindle Fire and online at ABC.com.
The app allows viewers to watch live, linear streams of the local ABC-owned TV stations in those markets as well as on-demand video for some primetime shows. Disney said it has in place authentication agreements for its suite of Watch apps with Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), Cox, Charter (Nasdaq: CHTR), Midcontinent and AT&T's U-verse (NYSE: T). As a "special open preview," access to the apps will be available to all viewers through the the end of June. After that, access to the live streams will only be available to subscribers of the pay-TV distributors with which ABC has TV Everywhere deals.
The app makes ABC the first broadcast network to offer live streams of its TV stations online on an authenticated or open basis--a service broadcasters have repeatedly sued to block when third parties have tried building a business around it. The litigation list includes companies such as FilmOn, ivi TV, Virtual Digital Cable and most recently Aereo. But so far, affiliates seem open to working with ABC on this service, and Disney has already reached an agreement with one major TV station owner to add its signals to the app soon.
The app won't deliver an exact copy of what traditional TV viewers see when they tune to one of the participating ABC stations. For instance, the ads will be different. That's in part a result of music licensing rules, according to CNN. "Advertisers sometimes license music for commercials that can be aired only on TV and not online, for example," ABC spokeswoman Karen Hobson told CNN.
Later, Disney will deploy the app in the six other markets where it owns ABC-affiliated stations. The company also said it and Hearst Television agreed to introduce the app in the 13 markets where Hearst owns ABC-affiliated stations. "Hearst Television recognizes that consumers want the ability to view our stations' programming on any device that has a screen," said David Barrett, Hearst Television's chairman and CEO. In addition, Disney expects to announce deals with other affiliate groups before the new TV season starts in the fall.
Disney exec sees continued growth in online video distribution
Report: ABC building live streaming app, Hulu's future in doubt