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ABC First Network to Offer Live Linear Video Stream

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Sometime this week, ABC will update its ABC Player iOS app and become the first major network to offer a live linear stream duplicating its broadcast feed. The move is a win for TV Everywhere, as only authenticated cable or satellite subscribers will be able to access the stream. Also, ABC has announced that it will reduce the number of free program episodes it offers on ABC.com and Hulu. The move is reminiscent of NBC's London Olympics streaming, where pay TV service was required to view content freely available on broadcast television.

While the live stream will initially only be available for iOS devices, ABC says that it will upgrade its apps on other platforms in the coming months. The New York Times broke the story yesterday.

The live steam will also only be available in the New York City and Philadelphia markets at the start. ABC will expand to the six other cities where it owns stations this summer, and will work with its over 200 affiliates to bring the live stream to their areas. Viewers will be able to view all the same shows as on the broadcast feed. Since Nielsen can't measure the performance of ads on mobile platforms, the live stream will carry different ads from the broadcast feed, ads targeted to the viewer.

ABC is partnering with UpLynk to deliver the live stream. ABC/Disney was UpLynk's first customer, announced when the company came out of stealth mode in January of this year. UpLynk announced live linear streaming in April, saying that Disney would use it with existing free apps. Apparently, ABC decided to expand that arrangement. An UpLynk representative said the service integrates with an affiliate's existing broadcast infrastructure, requiring little capital expense, and that all encoding is done in the cloud.

With this move, it's easy to see that TV Everywhere will continue to grow and lock access to broadcast content online. When that happens, viewers will be forced to choose between a pay TV account or going with freely available online content mixed with low subscription fee services such as Netflix. With online originals getting more polished, the area is sure to be competitive. 

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