Those television fans without pay-TV services who are relying on ABC’s website to stay caught up on Scandal, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Revenge and the network’s other popular series will be out of luck (or a week behind) come January 6. Starting next week, ABC will be restricting next-day access to new episodes of their TV programming to subscribers of participating pay-TV affiliates and Hulu Plus subscribers. Those without a login will have to wait a week for the latest episode to become available.
Variety posted the news, noting that ABC follows in Fox’s footsteps in making it just a little less convenient for non-subscribers of pay-TV affiliates to access the new episodes of their current programming. Subscribers of services including AT&T U-verse, Cablevision, Charter, Cox Communications and Verizon FIOS — to name a few (no mention of Time Warner among the deals in place) — will be able to log in to view new episodes, while non-subscribers will have to wait a week for the episodes to be made available for free.
And what exactly does ABC stand to gain from this? Presumably, something more than whatever ad revenues are generated by the streaming episodes. In my limited experience with watching TV episodes on network TV websites, they may be free but they include commercial breaks. I don’t think you can even watch clips from shows on certain sites without being subjected to a commercial first. So how does blocking (or delaying, technically) that content from some viewers benefit ABC? Presumably in whatever deals they’re working out with the cable companies…
Via Gigaom.com, ABC’s website FAQ notes the importance of Pay TV service providers in the industry and broadcast television when explaining why the change is happening:
Pay TV service providers are a key part of the television industry in delivering broadcast content through new technology platforms. Now, with the support of participating pay TV service providers, the ABC network is able to continue to bring live entertainment, news and sports programming on a national and local level as well as the latest on-demand episodes on new, emerging digital platforms at no additional cost to their subscribers. This approach also allows ABC to offer several on-demand episodes that are available to everyone.
As a cable subscriber and someone who prefers to watch TV on her TV, I have no personal stake in this matter, but making episodes less available to fans seems like a step backward in terms of trying to build and maintain interest in TV shows. While it may discourage some viewers from sticking with a show, others might be enticed to look for ways around the login wall, either through password sharing or pirating. Those more ethically minded might be willing to wait a week. This may be one small step on the part of the networks and cable providers to combat the trend of cord-cutting, as people continue to give up their pricy cable plans and rely more on the internet for their TV watching needs. At the very least, the Hulu Plus inclusion gives non-cable subscribers a cheaper alternative that includes next-day access to ABC's shows. That's something...
Photo Credit: ©ABC