Does Live TV Streaming Free Consumers Or Add To Future Bills?

Are live-streaming TV apps the gateway drug to true a la carte programming?

Walt Disney's ABC broadcast network -- with backing from its cable, satellite and telco distribution partners -- is working on an app that would allow live streaming of its programming, according to The New York Times. But ABC hasn't confirmed anything yet.

ABC was first to move into the digital age by allowing individual shows to be sold on iTunes back in October 2005. Then came advertising-supported websites and a network-owned digital video service in Hulu.

Networks have offered live streaming in the past -- NBC's Olympics, CBS' and Turner's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, and most recently the Super Bowl. Specific news events and programs have also been available live. And Disney already offers its Watch Disney and Watch ESPN apps for live streaming and video-on-demand.



All this gives viewers -- especially prospective cord cutters -- some new perspective. They can watch all the "regular" TV they want without the usual equipment trappings. This can be freeing, especially if other networks move into this arena, since streaming doesn't have hardware equipment needs like traditional TV distribution.

Still, traditional distributors will have a hand in this, thanks to their TV Everywhere deal efforts. ABC reportedly discussed a live streaming app around a year ago.

One wrinkle could be that a Watch ABC live streaming app might stir up testy conversations -- not the least of which could be threatening to ABC stations and affiliates.

A Watch ABC app is, in some ways, all backwards. Time-shifting of TV content came first (iTunes, Hulu, Netflix), and now live streaming. No matter. Consumers will view this as having the best of both worlds -- live and time-shifted content.

Ultimately, an ABC live streaming app seems to bring consumers closer access to the specific networks they want -- a la carte programming. This has been something cable operators have fought hard against. No matter. Seems like TV distributors might have figured out -- for now -- how to set the business foundation for any future programming disruptions.

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