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In another move to restrict online access to broadcast TV, ABC Inc. will soon force viewers to sign in with their pay-TV credentials in order to stream on-demand content during the first week after a show airs on television.
The network posted information on the policy change on its Watch ABC website, along with a list of pay-TV providers participating as partners. Most of the major cable and telecom TV operators are on that list, but Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) is a notable exception. DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) and Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) are missing in action as well.
ABC started down the paywall path last spring when it launched the Watch ABC app. The app makes live streams of ABC shows available on the Web, but only to authenticated pay-TV subscribers. (See ABC Joins Live TV Streaming Parade.)
The latest news from the network extends the authentication requirement to early on-demand viewing as well. ABC notes that users without a pay-TV subscription will still be able to access new content with a Hulu Plus account or by purchasing new episodes through iTunes or Amazon Instant Video. The new policy goes into effect on January 6.
The idea of making network TV free online has come under assault in recent years as broadcast programmers have grown to rely more heavily on licensing fees to supplement advertising revenue. (See 'Free' TV Model Under Threat.)
News Corp. (NYSE: NWS), which jointly owns Hulu LLC with both Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) (parent company to ABC) and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), started locking up its online programming for the first eight days after broadcast back in 2011. As the trend continues into 2014, it will make the legal battles over Aereo Inc. even more interesting to watch. The more broadcasters restrict online access to TV shows, the more valuable Aereo's service has the potential to become. (See Aereo Fight Heats Up in DC.)
— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading