ABC is working on a app that will bring live streaming TV to mobile devices.
ABC was the first network to bring a really good, viewer friendly app to iDevices for streaming episodes of its programing on demand after a show has aired on TV. ABC was also the first network to sell its shows on iTunes. The new app will allow viewers to watch tv on mobile devices at the same time shows air on the network.
The television business is entangled in a mess of relationships that turn something like live streaming TV into a long list of problems to solve before ABC can make such an app available to viewers. Networks depend on local affiliates for distribution and contracts with those local affiliates prohibit networks from bypassing the affiliates to deliver content directly to viewers. That’s why you see your local stations call letters on TV shows when you watch on Hulu.
In order to satisfy contractual relationships with local affiliates, the ABC live streaming app will only work for people who subscribe to a local ABC channel on cable or satellite. That makes the app a little less useful to those of us most likely to want it … cord-cutters.
A Nielsen study found that the number of people who no longer get TV from satellite or cable has more than doubled in the past six years.
The number of cord-cutters is about five million households and that is less than five percent of the market. Still, TV consumers frustrated by having to pay for all the channels when only wanting a few is a big enough group that it could hurt ratings if content producers don’t figure out a way to serve us.
Cord-cutters depend on a combination of apps, websites like Hulu, Netflix, paid downloads, and BitTorrent to get around the cost of Cable. Cable companies are paying attention though. Verizon and Cablevision are both working to make it possible for subscribers to order channels a la carte.
It isn’t surprising that ABC is so far ahead of other networks in bring live TV to mobile. ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company, and Steve Jobs was that company’s largest share holder in Disney. Jobs’ influence on the board made the company more forward thinking about technology than other networks.
The tech exists for ABC to bring a live streaming TV app to mobile devices now. It’s those pesky business relationships that dictate that we’ll have to wait.