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Bad news for cord cutters: ABC starts restricting access to full TV show episodes

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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 (S CMCSK),  AT&T (S ATT) and even Google (S GOOG) Fiber, to offer authentication, and Hulu offers authentication through AT&T, Cablevision and Verizon. However, no similar agreements are in place for DISH (S DISH), DirecTV (S DTV) 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 (S NWS) 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 (S DIS) 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.

111 Responses to “Bad news for cord cutters: ABC starts restricting access to full TV show episodes”

  1. This isn’t fair to college students who live in dorms and may miss a show one night because of work or other activities. They don’t want to necessarily watch it the next day, but the may not want to watch it a week later as well. It’s a big inconvenience in that sense.

  2. Kimberli Laasch

    Huluplus and abc.com do not show all episodes. Subscribing to hulu plus is the same episodes you can get for free if you wait 8 days and you go to abc.com to watch for free. However, both sites only show selected episodes. Unsure how to view entire season if you have missed any shows which is frustrating as many shows are a continuum from week to week.

  3. I don’t think it is right that TV Stations make us wait 1-8 days to watch shows/movies on TWC OnDemand because them TV shows make their $ off Paid TV ads. & fees TWC pay them every year to broadcast their TV shows/movies & it is not like we can fast forward thew TV ads on TWC On Demand so them TV stations should let us watch the shows/movies from the time the come on air & any time after they are over. If they are going to make us wait up to 8 days then TWC should be able to allow us to fast forward thew TV ads. Another thing is TWC should setup their DVR service so we can watch it from OnDemand even if the TV we are watching it on us not the one the cable box is setup on

  4. cwal

    Good by ABC. Your shows are not worth the bother of changing the way I watch TV. Your are going to lose a lot of viewers but so be it. I think you have just become your worse enemy. There are too many other channels out there. So long its been real.

    An exviewer

  5. ABCyucky

    I guess suffering through repeated commercials and tuning into ABC’s website is not enough. ABC are you really truly that dumb? People will just pirate their favorite shows or stop watching. I’m just going to stop watching, toodles ABC-ya!

  6. long_intc

    I cut the cord 5 yrs ago. Best thing I ever did.
    I’ve got multimedia comin out my ears.
    It’s amazing when I go back and see what’s on “cable”
    what a complete joke it is.
    Can’t believe I paid for garbage all those yrs.
    If it isn’t OTA or on the web I don’t need it.
    Networks need me, I don’t need them.
    I watched commercial TV for 30 yrs,
    it worked just fine and still does.
    I see that with (6) HBO channels you can still
    watch re-runs of “Major Payne” every week for
    $200 a month. Wow, what a deal…..
    and on the week-ends you still get
    240 channels of 24hr Infomercials with NO regular programming!
    awesome! I’ll pass….
    lol
    :D

  7. Fred eagle

    This is bad news for ABC because it restricts who can watch their programming. Less viewers who are willing to tolerate bad business practices like this. Period.

  8. Sonya A. Willis

    Oh ABC how foolish of you. I have no problem watching the ads on Hulu. As a matter of fact I’m begging you to target me with the products/services that I do want. I’ll even give you 10% to program general items. Waiting eight days to watch OTA TV shows online? We’ll see how that works out.

    Web savvy people know of multiple ways to “alternative view programming” that goes beyond torrents. I thought the goal of creating Hulu was to reduce, “alternative view programming” not increase it. Bad move ABC. You’re only hurting the viewership of these shows in general. People want to watch on their own terms. Targeted advertising is a goldmine sitting there but you can’t let go of the past.

  9. The way I understand it, one will have to pay even for the older shows. I watch Revenge and Betrayal and I think they were asking $1.99′ What does it mean one would have to show cable credentials? I called Comcast, and the guy I talked to, didn’t have a clue. Can anyone explain?

  10. Hulu plus does NOT carry Good Morning America or The View. Waiting a week to watch news shows is pointless! I hope at least Hulu plus will pick these up so those of us w/out cable can watch our beloved news shows.

  11. ABC is only going to lose money and drive people to piracy. I don’t mind paying a small fee for Hulu+ and watching ads online. Why would someone without a TV pay for overpriced cable in order to watch a few shows online? “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

  12. Big problem with ABC when they deny you access based on IP address when you have a legitimate Comcast account and already paying. They are effing up the rollout of this new strategy already.

  13. The Authentication model is setting marketers and entertainment back. If Hulu and Networks were clever, they would air much more frequent 15 to 20 second commercials, resolving the “but is the consumer watching” question. It isn’t long enough to get ADD or do anything out of hearing range.

    Regrets for my imperfect, off the cuff feedback.

    I began watching the “new”, old system model back in 2006 or something (CWTV; lipstick jungle and some other shows; when did Dirty Sexy Money release on network TV?). I am not antenna savvy and don’t have one.

    Back in the 2000s the networks (all but fox) buckled on the 1-week delays and their players, in my opinion, were better, for the most part. My hubby and I are great about voting with our eyes and feet. If Hulu Plus was like Netflix or actually had much reduced ad interruption time like they claimed in 2013, we’d be using it even tho we’re “cord cutters.” A chunk of us don’t mind paying if we also get something – but $20 or so to watch just one show for a season on “blah, blah, blah, commercial supplier sweat shop,” isn’t a good enough deal to use said third party.

    And I worked on the government funded Broadband USA program, launched with more than a billion of your tax dollars in the Recovery Act. I learned all about government subsidy of networks….you know, everyone needs their corporate welfare —– but only the public are freeloaders right? Comcast et. al., are crying all the way to the bank right? It’s like Exxon whining not so long ago, and for a long time, about CAFE standards………I’m not stating an opinion on CAFE.

  14. Oh, Phew! I thought it was never. It didn’t say a whole week, and I attempted to watch an old episode and it still asked for my provider. I do not own a TV, so this is quite frustrating. It’s the providers attempt at avoiding becoming obsolete.

  15. Paul McConaughy

    Isn’t this really bad news for ABC. More people will lose interest and quit watching their shows. Less bodies to sell to advertisers. Less revenue. Bye Bye ABC.

  16. Mark in Los Angeles

    Cut the cable cord years ago and haven’t look back. I pay for Hulu Plus and the savings are totally worth it over what Time Warner was gouging me with.

  17. Remember when if you wanted to watch a show, you had to watch it when it aired, and ONLY when it aired?

    If you missed it, that was it. No next-day streaming, no on-demand. And the VCR hadn’t been made affordable yet!