ABC said to add streaming broadcasts to iPhone, iPad app


The logo for the ABC television network is shown on a video screen at the Disney ABC Television Group summer press tour in this file photo. ABC is said to be adding streaming video to its iPhone and iPad apps. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (FRED PROUSER/REUTERS)

Cable customers may soon be able to watch “Gray’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” on their iPhones and iPads in real time, according to reports that ABC is planning to let some viewers watch local broadcasts through their Apple devices.

The service is called Watch ABC and will at first be available only to viewers in Philadelphia and New York, the New York Times reported.

What it won’t be, according to reports, is a way for users to get around their cable subscriptions: Those who fire up the app will have to verify that they’re cable customers, similar to the sign-in process on apps such as HBO Go.

That ABC now has the technology to stream live television over mobile devices shows that the company is thinking about how its viewers’ habits are changing. ABC was one of the first to offer full episodes to users over its apps. And it has also launched some major social television efforts that take advantage of the “second-screen” trend, in which viewers use their smartphones and tablets while watching live TV to share thoughts with friends or look up information on a show.

ABC declined to comment on the report.

The Times report said that the network originally planned to have the functionality ready by 2014 but decided to accelerate that rollout to meet consumer demand.

The service would allow users to take ABC broadcasts with them as they run errands or to watch sports games live where no TV is available. The Times said that the service should work in any place within a station’s local market, just as it does with TV sets.

The rollout is not quite a direct hit at the TV startup Aereo, which has been locked in legal battles with broadcasters over its plans to gives users PC, tablet and phone access to live, local broadcasts on multiple local stations for a monthly fee. Because Watch ABC will apparently still require users to subscribe to cable services to watch programs, it cater to Aereo’s market of “cord-cutters” looking to get all the content they want without signing on to cable television bundles. The new endeavor does, however, aim to fill the same Internet television gap that Aereo does — that users can’t watch live events such as sports or local news on services such as Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon Prime.

On Monday, Aereo announced that it’s simplifying its pricing structure as it prepares to expand outside the New York area. The company will offer a new $8-per-month plan along with 20 hours of digital video recorder storage starting May 15, Aereo said in a press release. For $12 per month, users will be able to upgrade to 60 hours of DVR storage.

All new subscribers will also receive their first month of service for free, the company said. Current subscribers will be able to keep to their own plans.

Aereo is expected to expand to Washington. and several other cities this summer.

Related stories:

As Aereo threatens to alter TV landscape, major networks promise a fight

Time Warner Cable CEO wants to slim cable bundles, eyes Aereo’s technology

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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