On January 6 ABC’s VOD service, WatchABC (available on iOS, Android, and web browser) will ask users to authenticate with a subscription to a cable or satalite service in order to view recently aired episodes. “Sign in with your participating TV provider to watch recently aired episodes. Or wait a week to watch without signing in.” reads the sub headline on the info page for the website I fin the “Or wait a week” part to be humorously blunt.
Currently the supported providers are as follows.
- AT&T U-verse
- Cablevision Optimum
- Comcast XFINITY
- Cox Communications
- Google Fiber
- Verizon FiOS
To those with cable or satellite bills that don’t have any of the above headers, there is the mocking advice that they are looking to add more providers, or just use the unsupported providers VOD service.
Full disclosure, me and my family have DirectTV.
This is a move by ABC that blatantly tries to double dip, and shore up relationships with cable and satellite providers; cable and satellite providers with their retransmission fees are more and more becoming the main source of income for Americas 4 (ok 5 if you count CW) over the air Networks.
The Networks find themselves in a precarious ground, digital services like Netflix are on the rise, the DVR has “killed” their main revenue source (not all that true), and they have been shut out of critical awards for the better part of a decade it feels like. Viewership in the traditional sense is down year over year. Reality TV just isn’t the draw that it used, there has been major reality TV executive turnover in the past year and most of the staples are now very long in the tooth. Live events (sporting or otherwise) are the only sure things these days it seems.
So, I get where ABC is coming from here. But it is still the wrong move. ABC, you are not a cable network. You are a broadcast network. It used to be we had a nice simple deal between us( the viewer) and them(the network). They would provide products and we in turn were commoditized by them when they went to sell ad space, a nice little symbiotic relationship. There is no reason why that can’t still work, Networks are all about “going broad”, what provides a bigger, broader, deeper base than the entirety of the Internet (in the US at least). You survive on people watching your content, why else do you trumpet Live+3 and 7 ratings so goddamn much. So don’t try and cut off potential viewership to less tractable means (read: piracy) because your sugar daddy says so.
This is an era of on demand and demanded content. Waiting a week isn't good enough, we'll have moved on. Paying for it is a bit insulting honestly, it breaks the long held deal between Network and viewer. Using Hulu wouldn't be a bad thing if it weren't hamstrung by the above mentioned wait a week rules.
It’s time like this that one of the Networks, other than CW, start investing in a robust digital offering. Worth noting that CW is functionally a venture between two networks that exists to create licensable content to places like Netflix and internationally. Yes Go Broad, cast the widest net possible, but just because you go broad doesn’t mean you have to put on truly mind numbing and banal content.
There could be a future for Network TV, but with how they continue to try and not innovate or apply old methods in new areas, there will not be one.