TV Networks Finally Discover Live Streaming; Still Get It Really, Really Wrong

from the of-course-they-do dept

Over and over again people have pointed out that one of the reasons people flock to “unauthorized” versions of content is that legitimate versions aren’t available. For a decade or so, it’s been odd that network TV has been generally resistant to embracing the internet. A big part of the reason, of course, is money driven, since they make so much cash from cable deals (even if their content is free over the air). The fight with Aereo, of course, is not so much about copyright as it is about retransmission fees that the networks can get from cable. So it might seem like a bit of progress to see that the networks are finally moving towards live streaming of content.

While many shows are now available online, they usually aren’t available until hours (or sometimes days or weeks) after things air. And while, yes, we’re now a DVR world, where people don’t always watch shows when they air, there is still a sizable population of fans of shows that like to watch them in real-time. In fact, many have said that the supposedly evil internet is actually making them more interested in watching live, because they can share the cultural experience more widely via things like Twitter and Facebook. So, recognizing that reality, making it easier for people to view the content live at the same time, such as via online streaming, makes a lot of sense. Kudos to the networks for recognizing that, about a decade later than they should have.

Disney’s ABC network will become the first broadcast network to stream its shows live online through an ongoing service, starting with viewers of its TV stations in New York and Philadelphia on May 14 and expanding to its other stations by the end of the summer.

Okay, that’s the good part. But, given who we’re talking about, of course there’s a catch. There’s always a catch:

Starting on July 1, Disney will only provide its WATCH ABC service to subscribers of cable, satellite and other TV subscription services that have agreements with ABC to offer the service to their subscribers in New York and Philadelphia. Subscribers must provide an authentication code to be granted access to the shows.

Later this summer, Disney said it will expand use of its WATCH ABC service to authenticated subscribers that receive its TV stations in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno, California.

Remember, this is free, over the air, network television we’re talking about. But they’re so frightened of pissing off the cable/satellite guys from whom they make boatloads of money, they won’t offer the content to cord cutters — only to people who are already paying ridiculous sums for cable/satellite TV.

Oh, and rather than make it work on any platform, it appears to be specific to certain devices:

The app will initially allow users to be able to watch the service on Apple’s iPad and iPhone and on the Kindle Fire device, and later this summer on Samsung Galaxy devices.

Oh, and they’re not done with the bad ideas either:

The report also claims that in the future, ABC will “withhold its most recent TV episodes from the free versions of Hulu and ABC.com, further limiting access to paying subscribers of cable and satellite providers only.”

Way to take a good idea (live streaming) and make it completely crappy and pointless again (locking it to devices and existing overpriced pay TV offerings while taking away the value for everyone else and further fragmenting the space).

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Companies: abc, disney

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Comments on “TV Networks Finally Discover Live Streaming; Still Get It Really, Really Wrong”

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58 Comments
Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, I don’t get that either.

Another annoying “feature” of the free Hulu service is only having the latest 5 episodes of a show available. If someone happens to catch a middle episode at a friends house, likes it and then wants to see the series from the beginning they are SOL. Those are new eyeballs on ads that they are missing out on. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

Akari Mizunashi (profile) says:

Disney? ABC?

These are foreign to me now. When I cut cable, it’s more apt to say I severed my relationship with these “businesses”.

Cable bill? Haha. It’s amazing what one can do with an HD antenna and a $100 DVR (because the wife demands her CSI).

Though, I suppose ICE, FBI, CBS, ABC, and NBC will one day kick in my door and scream “INFRINGEMENT!” at the top of their lungs I’m not paying for the show.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: to akari

i have been esearching HD OTA stuff off and on, if you don’t mind, what antenna did you end up going with ?

SWMBO is the main stumbling block in cutting the cord, but since espn and dish had some sort of falling out (whatever the fuck do i care what their bidness bullshit is ? i just want my stoopid fucking teevee), she is pissed off that our online espn streaming got squeezed out in some Big Media powerplay…

she wrote them (not that it does any good), but she is about ready to drop the whole enchilada because they have fucked with watching our Gators one too many times…

really, if they (or any big name university) would sell their own broadcasts (which they already do with all but football and basketball) DIRECTLY to us online, we would be happier than a pig in slop… i can’t believe they wouldn’t make a TON more money, rather than going through espn and the networks…

fuck the dinosaurs, small mammals for the win ! ! !

art guerrilla
aka ann archy
art guerrilla at windstream dot net
eof

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You’re looking at some hard time here son, felony time shifting without a license to watch, felony time shifting without a license to record audio, felony time shifting without a license to record video, felony time shifting without a license to record audio/video, felony time shifting with a license to check the time, and… Did you say this was for your wife? I guess we can add felony secondary facilitation of inducement to infringe too…

Zakida Paul (profile) says:

My biggest bone of contention with US networks is this silly practice of region blocking content. Being from the UK, I often have to wait months for content assuming we get it at all. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are good examples and the differences between content in the US and elsewhere are vast. Good services are made not so good by region blocking. I know you can change DNS or IP settings but people should not have to do this.

There is absolutely no technical reason why content cannot be made available online globally. There is even no technical reason why people in the UK, for example, should not be able to subscribe to online cable services. As far as I can see, the only reason for region blocking is control and even that is negated by piracy.

The Internet does not have borders and I believe the licensing laws need to be upgraded universally to reflect this.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re:

My biggest bone of contention with US networks is this silly practice of region blocking content. Being from the UK, I often have to wait months for content assuming we get it at all.

Hey, you aren’t blameless either! BBC iPlayer won’t let me watch QI and WILTY — and I’m in Canada, for chrissakes! We’re basically you! ๐Ÿ™‚

out_of_the_blue says:

"share the cultural experience" -- TV? -- HA, HA! & OY.

That there is EXACTLY what’s wrong with watching television — or teh internets — causes a lowering of intellect and standards, until lounging half-conscious eating chips is a “cultural experience”. Sheesh.

The world is being Masnicked — trumpeting ephemeral “culture” while the surveillance state marches on to total control.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "share the cultural experience" -- TV? -- HA, HA! & OY.

I actually agree with OOTB.
At this point, it’s clear that these companies produce not cultural works of art, but products to be sold. Their usefulness is limited by the media companies to be time-wasters, not artifacts of cultural significance to be shared and enjoyed together. Let’s stop wasting our time trying to treat locked-up (and mostly crappy) shows, movies and songs as cultural artifacts and just forget about them completely because they are useless time-wasting products.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: "share the cultural experience" -- TV? -- HA, HA! & OY.

It seems trite at this point to just list off the usual suspects of quality television, but seriously, you should check out what’s out there. Whatever kind of fiction you are interested in, there’s a show either on now or from within the past 10 years that has done something new, interesting and creative with it. TV is by nature a fluid and dynamic medium for storytelling, and it does have some business constraints, so TV shows aren’t “perfected” the way supposedly higher forms of art sometimes are — which means you can argue that there are some things they can’t achieve. But there are also great things that only they can achieve, and it really would be stupid to ignore the contributions they make to art and storytelling.

As for culture, that’s really a much bigger thing than just what’s good art. I don’t think reality television is good art but it’s certainly a real element of our culture, like it or not — and dismissing the medium of television because of it is as silly as dismissing magazines because the most popular ones are vapid ad-rags.

anonymouse says:

Re: Re: Re: "share the cultural experience" -- TV? -- HA, HA! & OY.

The only thing i have watched live on tv over the past 5 years is the news and the grand prix. but i do watch stuff i have downloaded or recorded.

If they don’t want to change with the times and the technology they are doing nothing but destroying the business of broadcast entertainment by not moving into the future and giving people what they want. I would watch live if they gave me a reason, possibly a free access to a site where the show could be partially interactive or give more info that made you feel that you were more in contact with the actors.Actually they could make the whole experience more interactive and encourage more of us to play along. But no they would rather fight for the right to prevent us watching what we want.

Leigh Beadon (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Where's the beef?

As I said at the beginning, it feels trite to list the examples, because everyone’s already heard them. But, if you like, here some personal (but hardly unexpected) favourites that I’d make a case for as high-quality creative fiction (both serious and comedic) that deserves attention:

– Breaking Bad
– Mad Men
– The Wire
– The Office (UK edition and the first two-thirds or so of the US edition)
– Arrested Development
– Lucky Louie and, even moreso, Louie
– Peep Show
– Archer

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Re: "share the cultural experience" -- TV? -- HA, HA! & OY.

At this point, it’s clear that these companies produce not cultural works of art, but products to be sold. Their usefulness is limited by the media companies to be time-wasters, not artifacts of cultural significance to be shared and enjoyed together. Let’s stop wasting our time trying to treat locked-up (and mostly crappy) shows, movies and songs as cultural artifacts and just forget about them completely because they are useless time-wasting products.

That’s more or less what they used to say about Shakespeare, about jazz, about rock, about movies, various late 19th and 20th century art movements, etc.

Just because it isn’t your cup of tea doesn’t mean it isn’t art, and isn’t worthy of appreciation at least by people who find something to appreciate in it. By all means, let the finer arts exist and flourish, but don’t attack things just because you don’t like them.

RD says:

Re: Re: "share the cultural experience" -- TV? -- HA, HA! & OY.

“I actually agree with OOTB.
At this point, it’s clear that these companies produce not cultural works of art, but products to be sold. Their usefulness is limited by the media companies to be time-wasters, not artifacts of cultural significance to be shared and enjoyed together. Let’s stop wasting our time trying to treat locked-up (and mostly crappy) shows, movies and songs as cultural artifacts and just forget about them completely because they are useless time-wasting products.”

I completely agree. And since they are no longer works of art they no longer qualify for copyright protection (which is for the EXPRESS purpose of promoting the arts and useful sciences.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: "share the cultural experience" -- TV? -- HA, HA! & OY.

Copyright is about advancing the progress of science NOT ART. In fact, under the first us copyright laws mearly being creative wasn’t enough to get copyright on a work.

If it didn’t “Promote the progress of the sciences” it wasn’t copyrightable no matter how artistic it was

Anonymous Coward says:

We’re rascals and scoundrels, we’re villians and knaves.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
We’re devils and black sheep, we’re really bad eggs.
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.

We’re beggars and blighters and ne’er do-well cads,
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
Aye, but we’re loved by our mommies and dads,
Drink up me ‘earties, yo ho.
Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.

Anonymous Coward says:

so are they expecting people who pay for the service to carry on paying but watch through the Disney streaming service instead? surely no one is going to do that unless the reception is better? on top of which, why would anyone want to pay for a service it doesn’t want in order to get a free service that it does want? sorry for asking but are you lot that fucking stupid?

Anonymous Coward says:

Heres is what I really dont get. I watch Castle on free Hulu, which comes out a day after air. I dont pay a dime to watch the show….but wait… I have to watch the stupid comercials. So if the money comes from the comercials, then why does it matter how it is brodcasted if there are still comercials? I know subscription fees are high, though I dont pay them, but I thought most of the money came from comercials.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Simple. At this point, basic cable is rapidly approaching obsolescence. Cable companies are afraid that if streaming free channels online became popular, it’d be their death knell.
So, cable companies pay ABC a significant amount of money, and in return they’re granted the privilege of being able to show a TV channel that anyone could get for free with an antenna. Then ABC just happens to give them veto rights for their online streaming services. Completely unrelated, I’m sure.

Rich Fiscus (profile) says:

Remember, this is free, over the air, network television we’re talking about. But they’re so frightened of pissing off the cable/satellite guys from whom they make boatloads of money, they won’t offer the content to cord cutters — only to people who are already paying ridiculous sums for cable/satellite TV.

Actually it’s not the pay TV guys they’re worried about. It’s the cord cutters. As I explained in a comment to yesterday’s post about ESPN, they are Disney’s cash cow. You should also make sure to look at the link in Dave’s response to mine where he provides much better detail about ESPN pricing.

Generic Name says:

media center

I really think they don’t understand streaming at all, they see netflix and hulu and think they get it.
I would love to show a room full of network execs a cheap system running media center software that can directly access linking sites then explain to them that people can already access virtually any movie or TV show that’s ever been created with no chance of getting an infringement notice just so I could watch there heads explode.
Make it easy and make it available and people WILL PAY, make it difficult and make it hard to get and people will still get the content at ZERO risk.

Anonymous Coward says:

Why must the way forward always be timelocked to the 1950-1970 era for these people?

Hardware locking… now that’s dumb, old, disconnected thinking.

So they want to corner exclusive eyeballs, those with cable subscriptions; but within that group, they only want those with exclusive devices.

All on… The Internet…

Sure, one could do things like that, but good lord Why narrow a potential audience of billions to a few million worldwide???

IMO at least partly this comes from our the asinine values people with money seem to share today. With investors thinking the way they do, a couple of million $$ showing up on a company’s books today from an exclusive deal trumps any assessment of viability for future success. Its all about today.

This lack of concern for the future shown by investors mirrors that of voters who go to the polls once every four years (and look blankly at you if told elections happen 8 times that often) and make 99% of their decisions based on the blurbs, or ‘headlines’ as I like to call them, on the ballots themselves.

We can say its just the executives at ABC who are stupid, but I’m convinced that here is another case of the bell curve majority trying to keep us moving backwards.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Wall Street demands reward short-term profit over long-term sustainability. Corporate culture rewards sociopathy over competence.
It’s a mess, and I have no idea how to fix it. All I can do is avoid contributing to it; like you, I do my homework before voting. It takes a couple of days, but it’s worth it to not be part of the problem.

Aidian Holder says:

The main reason ABC is being so dumb

I’d guess that A reason, if not THE reason ABC/Disney is being so stupid about how this is rolled out is because of the affiliate stations.

Networks love to own local stations — local TV is under economic pressure, but it still has the sort of profit margins usually seen in narcotics distribution — but they legally can only own stations that reach 35% of the nation’s viewers.

That means 65% of the nation gets its network programs from independently owned affiliates. This applies whether you watch on cable or OTA — your cable company must carry the local network affiliate.

The minute a network starts live streaming its primetime shows direct to viewers, the affiliates will revolt and pull the plug on network programming OTA and cable. Now the network can only be seen by cordcutters in 65% of the country’s homes (or, what they care about, the ‘television households’).

That’s why Disney thinks they have no choice but to limit this option to cable subscribers in the geographic area served by their network owned and operated stations.

Eventually, this won’t be an issue. The network-affiliate model is a dead man walking. But right now it’s huge business worth billions of dollars.

And because of a) the television industry’s determination not to be disrupted and b) the pathetic state of American broadband and the entrenched interests who get rich on keeping it that way the network-affiliate model may survive for quite some time.

Ok, actually, I guess I should note that the reason Disney’s being so dumb is because ABC is run by TV network executives, who have never found a good idea they couldn’t ruin. It’s like they can’t help themselves. But a close second would be the affiliate issues. ๐Ÿ™‚

ChrisB (profile) says:

Just Galaxy?

Why just “Samsung Galaxy” devices? This seems odd. What about other phones, like the Google Nexus? There are people, like me, who don’t like the stupid skins Samsung put on Android, one reason being it takes forever for updates. I finally sold my Note because of the huge delay in getting Jellybean. I’ll only ever buy pure Google phones now.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is why myself and so many others just download it via BitTorrent. Offer it to me with commercials you make money with, I’ll watch them. Offer it to me on any device, I’ll buy it. But lock it down,and make me wait longer than it takes to get it from another source, and lock it down? There’s an old saying, if you treat someone like a criminal, they’ll act like one. I’m living proof.

Barry Horne (profile) says:

How..??

I have been reading about all this free air live streaming network stuff, and dont really understand it as im not that technical minded, can it be true i can stream all my channels for free and dump sky ?? bye the way im in the uk, if so then WOW.!! lets do it, how do i go about it and will it cost me anywhere.? wot if any do i need any receivers or something to receive these or just my pc,?

Many Thanks….

Philip Sumpter (user link) says:

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