Marking a first for a broadcast network, ABC on Sunday announced the launch of its Watch ABC app to allow pay-TV subscribers access to live, linear streaming of viewers' local ABC station programming -- including network, local and syndicated content -- starting in the New York and Philadelphia markets.
The service will launch first as a free preview on May 14, to coincide with the network's upfront presentation in New York, and be available to all viewers through a special open access preview with WABC-TV and WPVI through the end of June. After that, it will be available to authenticated subscribers in New York and Philadelphia, with Disney-ABC having agreements in place for the authenticated product with Comcast, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Midcontinent Communications and AT&T U-verse.
The app will roll out in the other six ABC-owned station markets this summer -- Los Angeles (KABC-TV), Chicago (WLS-TV), San Francisco (KGO-TV), Houston (KTRK-TV), Raleigh-Durham (WTVD-TV) and Fresno (KFSN-TV). The network has also reached an agreement with Hearst Television to launch the service in their 13 station markets, which include Boston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Milwaukee, in the coming months. Deals with other station groups are expected to be announced prior to the start of the fall season.
"Watch ABC is a game-changing innovation for the broadcast television industry," said Anne Sweeney, cochair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney/ABC Television Group, in a statement. "This announcement represents a defining moment in technology and distribution, as well as for our advertising and affiliate partners, as we ensure that our high-quality content is available to viewers on a variety of devices. Our mission with this special preview is to gather key learnings about the service and the consumers who utilize it in order for our Watch products to be the gold standard experience of authenticated multiplatform viewing."
The Watch ABC app will include live streaming of ABC shows and local programming plus on demand content currently found on the ABC Full-Episode Player and app. The live streams will carry different ads but the same ad break lengths, according to an ABC spokesman.
The company launched similar services for Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior in June 2012, as well as WatchESPN. The company plans to roll out a Watch ABC Family app in early 2014.