The network will launch its new “WATCH ABC” live-streaming service on Tuesday during upfronts, available first to users in NY via WABC-TV and in Philadelphia via WPVI. Owner Disney launched three successful branded services last summer — WATCH Disney Channel, WATCH Disney XD, and WATCH Disney Junior — yielding nearly 15 million downloads. ABC‘s free preview hopes to follow suit, making available linear streaming of local ABC stations and on-demand full episodes of ABC programming to authenticated subscribers who can access the service online or via the WATCH app on iOS, Kindle Fire. Eventually the service will be available via Samsung Galaxy devices. The initial launch will expand to LA, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham, and Fresno later this summer, with 13 additional Hearst-owned ABC affiliates to follow including Boston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Milwaukee. The network promises full adoption across all ABC-owned station markets by the Fall broadcast season, with an ABC Family-centric version rolling out in 2014.
Cinedigm‘s Docurama distribution arm is relaunching as a multi-platform brand. Armed with a library of over 1,200 nonfiction films, the company today announced plans to screen seven feature length documentaries in theaters in consecutive one-week runs starting April 22: G-Dog (dir. Freida Mock), ¡Vivan Los Antipodas! (dir. Victor Kossakovsky), The World Before Her (dir. Nisha Pahuja), The Fruit Hunters (dir. Yung Chang), Charge (dir. Mark Neale), Ping Pong (dir. Hugh Hartford), and London: The Modern Babylon (dir. Julien Temple). 15 markets are lined up including Los Angeles, San Diego, Austin, Phoenix, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Ithaca.
The phone service calls it AT&T U-verse Screen Pack, and it will cost $5 a month. Like with competitors such as Netflix — and, notably, Verizon’s new Redbox Instant — AT&T will offer unlimited, instant playback on multiple …
Everyone interested in the potentially precedent-setting dispute between broadcasters and the fledgling Aereo streaming service will be watching what happens at the U.S. District Court in New York beginning on Wednesday. Judge Alison Nathan will hold a hearing to consider a request by broadcasters to bar Aereo from selling subscriptions while the courts determine whether it infringes on copyrights. Industry watchers are less interested in the ruling on the injunction than they are in whether Nathan provides any signals about her feelings regarding the larger argument: Is Aereo legal? The service streams local over-the-air programming to subscribers who pay $12 a month, but doesn’t pay stations a dime. Pay TV providers are privately rooting for Aereo. If it’s legal, then cable and satellite providers could introduce similar services — and tell TV stations to go to hell if they demand huge retransmission consent fees. Everyone wants an early read. RBC Capital Markets analyst David Bank says legal expects he consulted tell him that ”an Aereo victory isn’t likely, but a broadcaster victory is no slam dunk and could take years to resolve.” Broadcasters including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Univision, and PBS say Aereo steals their programming without compensation. Aereo says they already give their programming away to anyone
I agree more often than not with BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield’s industry insights. So I’m surprised to see how impressed he is today with a new product that strikes me as a likely loser: Aereo. The company, backed in part by Barry Diller, just announced that it will go live in New York City on March 14. Residents willing to pay $12 a month will be able to stream signals from local over-the-air TV channels, and watch their shows on demand with the functionality of a 40-hour, dual antenna DVR. The service will only work as long as users are in the local market — not, say, if they’re on a vacation or business trip. Aereo execs expect lots of people to subscribe, perhaps in conjunction with Netflix, as a substitute for the $65 a month cable or satellite TV package. That could be revolutionary, Greenfield writes today in a blog post: “If Aereo is in fact legal, we find it hard to fathom that the traditional (pay TV) bundle will survive and that retrans payments will continue to scale as broadcasters are expecting them to over the next several years.” If he’s right, then it’s the end of the media world as we know it. The giants
Here’s more ammo for those who hold the still-controversial view that digital video services pose a major threat to conventional pay TV. Netflix says that the 20M subscribers to its streaming service in 45 countries watched more than 2B hours of movies and TV shows in last three months of 2011. That would make Netflix the 15th most popular TV network in the U.S. — ahead of FX, HGTV, and History Channel — BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield says based on his back-of-the-envelope calculations, including the reasonable assumption that the “vast majority” of the streaming subs were based here. What’s more, he figures that in homes that receive Netflix, it would be the second-most-watched TV service behind CBS. “With Netflix viewing at these levels, it simply CANNOT be all incremental” — meaning that some of it comes from people who spend less time time with traditional TV — Greenfield says. He adds that “Netflix streaming usage is exploding and is far, far bigger than traditional media executives give it credit for.” For example, he notes that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes recently said that Netflix is probably the 50th most watched network.
Keep an eye on the retail colossus as the online streaming business takes shape. Walmart wants to be a player, and VUDU — the service it bought in March 2010 — provides a strong foundation. VUDU has more than 20,000 movie titles that consumers can buy online or rent for $2 for two nights. The news this morning is that the company is integrating VUDU into the popular Walmart.com website. But you can be sure that Walmart has bigger plans. Here’s the release:
SANTA CLARA, Calif. and BRISBANE, Calif., July 26, 2011 – Demonstrating its commitment to e-commerce and goal of offering customers “one continuous shopping” channel, Walmart today announced the integration of its popular movie streaming service, VUDU, on Walmart.com. Customers can now shop for thousands of digital VUDU titles, including the hottest new releases, and purchase and/or rent them directly on Walmart.com at www.walmart.com/vudu.
As customers shop for movies at Walmart.com, they now have the option to select the digital VUDU title and/or the physical title (DVD or Blu-ray Disc). Those who select the digital title complete their transaction through Walmart.com’s checkout, and then can easily stream the movie directly from Walmart.com, VUDU.com, or from one of more than 300 VUDU-enabled devices, including select HDTVs, Blu-ray Disc players and the PlayStation®3.
UPDATE, 1:49 PM: Here’s Cablevision’s response to Viacom’s action today: “Cablevision’s agreements with programmers allow us to deliver cable television service to our customers, regardless of how many or what kinds of televisions they have in the home. Programmers are paid based on how many homes we securely connect to their content, not how many televisions display it, so they have never questioned whether a customer has a single TV or a dozen 50-inch flat panels in the home –- it’s all cable television. Optimum App for iPad simply turns the iPad into another television in the home, and one it is worth noting our customers are finding particularly enjoyable and easy to use.”
PREVIOUS, 12:49 PM: Cablevision last week quietly unveiled its own iPad app to rival one from Time Warner Cable, whose app has gotten plenty of notice because it took down a bunch of channels after companies like Viacom, Fox, Scripps and Discovery Communications filed cease-and-desist letters, arguing that the cabler doesn’t have the proper licenses to stream content for its subscribers on other platforms besides TVs. On Thursday, that spat continued: Time Warner Cable filed a suit in New York seeking a declaratory judgment to affirm rights to Viacom’s channels, and Viacom countered with a suit alleging breach of contract among other things.
But the Wall Street Journal reports today that Viacom has complained about Cablevision’s Optimum app, which streams all of the cabler’s content to its subscribers’ iPads. (So far, Optimum had only gotten guff from the regional YES Network — not a surprise, given their history with Cablevision’s former MSG Network in New York — and Major League Baseball.) “Cablevision has seized distribution rights that Viacom has not granted,” Viacom told the WSJ today. “We will take the steps necessary to ensure that Cablevision respects our rights.”