Starting January 6, next-day access to full episodes of ABC TV shows will be restricted to cable or Hulu Plus subscribers. Everyone else will have to wait a whole week.

abc eight day delay feature art

Fans of Modern Family, Scandal, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Revenge just got another item to add to their list of New Year’s resolutions: find their cable account credentials. Starting on January 6, ABC will require viewers to sign in with their cable account information if they want to watch new episodes of the network’s shows online the day after they air on TV.

The network explained the new requirements in an FAQ this way:

“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.”

The requirement to sign in to watch also extends to Hulu.com, where ABC up until now made its shows available for free to everyone. Going forward, next-day access is restricted to either Hulu Plus subscribers or subscribers who authenticate through their cable provider. Both Hulu and ABC.com will continue to make episodes available to everyone, including people who don’t pay for cable, eight days after the initial air date.

ABC has teamed up with a number of TV providers, including Comcast,  AT&T and even Google Fiber, to offer authentication, and Hulu offers authentication through AT&T, Cablevision and Verizon. However, no similar agreements are in place for DISH, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable, meaning that customers of these providers will have to wait a week for new ABC episodes as well.

Forcing TV viewers to sign in for next-day access isn’t an entirely new thing: News Corp.-owned Fox first instituted an eight-day delay for unauthenticated viewers in 2011, and has been forcing Hulu.com viewers to either sign in or pay up for Hulu Plus ever since. However, the fact that ABC now follows suit is an interesting sign of changes at the Disney-owned network that also indicates how the company is thinking about Hulu’s future.

Disney and News Corp., who co-own Hulu together with Comcast, long had different goals for the streaming service: News Corp. wanted to focus on authentication and paid Hulu Plus subscriptions, while Disney wanted to put a bigger emphasis on the free, ad-supported part of the business. Former News Corp. exec Mike Hopkins becoming Hulu’s CEO in October was a first sign that News Corp.’s point of view was prevailing. With ABC now putting up an authentication pay wall as well, it looks like Disney has come around and fully embraced paid and authenticated online video.

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  1. Why is this bad news for Cord Cutters? Watch it free on the day of the show over the air. Else record it on your OTA dvr. Or if you don’t find time there you go. Watch it a week later. Heh

    1. Most cord cutters I know don’t have OTA antennas. When people quit subscriber TV, they tend to ditch all all traditional TV media also.

      1. Then they’re missing out through ignorance. OTA antennas will give you free high definition broadcasts of better quality than small dish Ka band offerings by dish and directv.
        Its ridiculous that those satellite companies have the arrogance to offer “broadcast packages” that have a monthly fee, composed of nothing more than the exact same local channels you would get via antenna, and you have to pay extra for high definition versions of those channels no less through dish/directv.

        1. birminghamforsale Rick Wednesday, January 1, 2014

          I agree with Rick. A good antenna is really an important component of a cord cutter’s toolkit. I put a Mohu Sky in my attic, attached to the cables left by the previous homeowners. With it, I can consistently receive 28 unique video channels, including all the major broadcast networks. With my old PC and a discontinued USB tuner which I bought for $35 on closeout) running Windows 7, Windows Media Center, MCEBuddy, and MyMedia (all free and easy to set up), I have a whole house DVR system to stream OTA recordings to any devices in my house. For those who don’t want to bother with an HTPC, you can purchase one of the new Channel Master DVR+ and have a solid DVR solution for a single TV. Who needs ABC’s web site?

          The old guard in TV just seems to be intent on committing the same mistakes the music industry did before it finally saw the light a few years ago. Greed. Greed. Greed.

          1. @birminghamforsale You said “The old guard in TV just seems to be intent on committing the same mistakes the music industry did before it finally saw the light a few years ago. ”

            That’s why ABC’s decision is actually good news for all quality independent video producers that stand to gain from every misguided action that the legacy big media moguls make. Truly, they are their own worst enemy.

        2. Mark in Los Angeles Rick Thursday, January 2, 2014

          I tried installing an OTA antenna at home after cutting the cord. The amount of effort and research required to get a decent signal was not worth it. I simply returned it to the store and haven’t tried since. It’s not ignorance: many of us simply won’t put up with the hassle of trying to get OTA broadcasting in this new “improved” digital world. I used to have no problem getting a signal on my TV before the conversion.

          1. Different antennas vary wildly in signal quality. People raved online about the sleek Mohu Leaf, which looks like a laminated piece of paper you can stick on the wall with velcro. That worked minimally for me (I am in mid-city Los Angeles). I absolutely could not receive channels 7, 9 or 13 with the Mohu Leaf. But compared with my space alien transmitter-looking Terk HDTVa Indoor Amplified High-Definition Antenna, which is admittedly not perfect, but I can definitely receive those signals for channels 7, 9 and 13. The trick is that the antenna is highly directional and needs to be pointing directly at Mt. Wilson northeast of Pasadena, which is where all the transmitter towers are. There’s an apartment building right in the line-of-sight of Mt. Wilson, so the only way to really get the signal better would be to have a rooftop antenna. But for what it is, a $50 indoor antenna that’s saving me $100/month in cable bills, I’m totally fine with it.

          2. We have never had cable etc. After the digital conversion, we just continued with converter boxes and the small in-room antennas that we had before. Our 4 TVs get all of the major OTA networks and some of the minor ones. It’s more than enough to keep us entertained and eventually we will get digital TV’s, eliminating the converter boxes. The reception is excellent, far better than we had pre-digital.

            The only nuisance is that with converter boxes you can only set a VCR to record one channel. That will improve when we get new TVs, but then we will need digital recorders. I like the tapes of VCRs better than DVRs, plus DVRs seem to be tied to subscription services — some simple ones should be available for OTA viewers.

        3. Some of us cannot use OTA antennas due to our location. For example, I need a view of Mt. Wilson in California. I do not have that visual, or anywhere near it from my home. So, please do not speak of ignorance when you do not know what causes all individuals choices. Additionally, we do not own an actual TV, nor do we want our children to be able to view without permission. Thus, viewing digitally on my laptop or nook is most convenient.

        4. Or they’re missing out because the area they’re in doesn’t pick up any local channels with ANY antenna that’s not mounted to the roof. So those of us that want local channels are forced to pay.

    2. I can do that, but to be honest, that is way too much work to do for ABC shows. I only watch agents of sheild and I don’t even love the show. If it was something like Sherlock, I would take the extra effort, but for a show as mediocre as agents of shield, I’m just going to stop watching. Good bye ABC! You just lost a viewer! (There are countless others like me)

    3. Well unfortunately my tv provider (time warner) does not have abc family included, therefore I cannot watch on the air and I always would wait until the next day to watch shows online. Now I can’t.

    4. I can’t figure out what Abc and fox have to gain by forcing cord cutters to wait a week if they don’t pay for Hulu plus. That is a week’s worth of viewers notvwatching their commercials. Doesn’t that hurt their ad revenue in the long run?

      1. I think it is that they get a kick-back from the subscription providers, and that is money in the hand vs an unknown response to the ads run during the online shows.

        It does, however, look very petty and greedy on the part of networks that do this. That is especially so considering that some do not have the option of subscription services, because of location or finances. I think I have seen that the elderly are a very large component of the OTA market. Even for those who could get cable but choose not to for various reasons, it is nasty to make us jump through hoops to keep up with a favorite show. It was simply civilized to offer online rebroadcasts within 24 hours, an excellent use of the internet.

        ABC used to have a friendly (although leftist) image. They just wrecked that.

      2. I went to ABC Family’s website and attempted to watch a Pretty Little Liars episode that is months old, and could not. I’m not sure about the 8 day wait, it did not work for me.

  2. Thomas Mackelburg Tuesday, December 31, 2013

    I’ve never understood why I can get these shows for free over-the-air but not elsewhere.

  3. Idiots, just like the music industry. What I can’t get for free on line, I’ll download as a torrent with no commercials. Why am I a second class citizen just because I live out of reach of a local affiliate’s signal? Why should I be forced to pay a cable company to get what most Americans get for free OTA?

    1. What makes you think the entertainment industry owes you anything? They don’t.

      1. What makes you think we owe the entertainment industry anything? We don’t. Advertising pays for most of the bills so you would think they would want more people to watch.

      2. jdrch, no one is talking about the entertainment industry owing anyone anything… it’s just a reality that we can all get a full HD version of their shows on the same broadcast day via the torrent. To somehow moralize this is just wrong. The fact remains is that torrents are a reality that cannot be ignored and if the traditional media companies do not provide the content in an easily accessible manner the consumer will use other, less profitable means to acquire their content. The music industry ignored this reality and suffered mightily for it.

        1. Shoplifting is a reality too, but does that mean retailers should not charge anything in order to “provide their content in an easily accessible manner”? Advertising comprises about half the revenues for a typical media company, with the other half coming from subscription fees (including retrans fees for broadcast channels). There has to be a viable economic model to pay for the production of content, and for better or worse, that includes both advertising and subscription revenues.

          1. The sooner the media business abandons the idea that a) this is a moral issue and b) that it is the consumer’s responsibility to play by their rules the sooner the industry will be able to find a viable solution to monetize their content. It’s this kind of thinking that prevented the music industry from developing a sustainable business model for digital and why it a company in Cupertino came in to suck away a great portion of their profits for the first decade of online music. Your analogy reveals why the industry is paralyzed in its ability to evolve on accordance with the market realities. Like it or not the torrent world is there and until the industry figures out a delivery method that is equally effective them people will continue to download (without any moral hesitation I should add since most people feel it just isn’t their problem to solve the industry’s incompetence).

      3. Actually, jdrch…

        The airwaves are public domain and only *licensed* to broadcasters for use.

        Therefore, broadcasters actually do owe us- the American public- for use of our airwaves.

        Research the history of American broadcasting. Our culture hasn’t always been as selfish as we are today.

        1. I was going to mention the same thing. A license to broadcast means that the stations (non-cable) are supposed to be providing a public service. When it all went to digital, many of us suffered because we could not get the free signal we were supposed to have.

      4. Did you seriously ask that? They owe us EVERYTHING that they are!??? We have the power to make them or break them.

      5. Yeah, sure they don’t. We are JUST their loyal viewers who give them ratings, keep their shows off the chopping block, keeping them employed.

  4. There’s probably a few people who have “cut the cord” who also subscribe to “Hulu Plus.”

    1. Hulu’s owned by Comcast, Fox, and ABC, soooo …

      1. sooooo what?

        1. So subscribing to Hulu won’t change the status quo at all.

  5. I’ll watch free over the air, watch a week later or simply choose different shows. What I won’t do is reconnect the cord. Guess what ABC. You need us viewers more than we need your entertainment.

    1. I totally agree. There are were three tv’s in my home and cable wasn’t on any of them when my personal tv broke earlier this year. I didn’t bother buying another one because I work at night anyway and don’t watch much tv since I sleep from early afternoon into the evening. The few shows I continue to watch were through the channels site-abc.com, nbc.com, cbs.com. I was fine without cable and I’ll continue to be fine without abc.com. The only shows I ever watched on abc was Shark Tank and Scandal so I’ll watch a week after they air or not at all. But I don’t see myself getting another bill for cable to watch these shows and give people who are already millionaires or billionaires more of my little pay check.

  6. I really resent their belief that if we don’t pay through the nose for cable we’re second class citizens or something. I pay for the most basic of cable, the economy package, and even though the cable networks like USA and TNT say the shows will be unlocked for all after a short time period, they never are. I figure they didn’t want me to watch the Closer or White Collar anyway so I’ll watch Netflix or Amazon or something else. The thinking of limiting access to shows really just limits their audience. The only reason I pay for the economy package is that I can’t get my local ABC channel via interior antenna and I prefer their news/weather and GMA in the morning. I’ll just wait to watch ABC shows, unless I lose interest and watch CSI NY reruns or something instead…….

  7. Really? ABC? Oh I’m so scared! HA!

    1. Really Guest? Oh we are so scared : HA!

      ABC Execs

      1. Really Keith? Oh, we are so scared : HA!

        TV viewers who keep ABC in business

  8. Who cares? People watch too much TV as it is. (It’s funny that I happen to have a HuluPlus ad on my browser as I write this!)

  9. It’s cute how ABC thinks their shows are worth watching.

    1. Exactly! They have a few shows that I’m willing to watch, but nothing that I’m dying to watch.

    2. The shows are now, as they always have been, irrelevant. They are just the content between the commercials.

  10. Bregalad Fangorn Tuesday, December 31, 2013

    Being from the great white north where one of the largest cities has only 3 OTA channels, I’m curious how much content “most Americans” really have access to.

    I caution you to enjoy OTA broadcasting while it lasts because the FCC and their counterparts around the world will soon repurpose the frequencies used for television. The big media companies too are eager to move customers to new technology that lets them shut down transmitters, collect personal data and serve more lucrative targeted ads.

    1. Already being done…these cable companies are in bed with all the networks, and to get the basic cable is similar to getting nothing, because all the big networks are on the upper echelon ,hence you have to pay more, and yes, you also have to pay for the internet, when it’s all over at the end of the month, here in the philly area it’s over 200 dollars, disgusting to know this because I usually only watch the history channel or the military channel.

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