Starting Jan. 6, next-day access to full episodes of ABC TV shows [on the ABC mobile app and online] will be restricted to cable or Hulu Plus subscribers. Everyone else will have to wait a whole week.
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 Jan. 6, ABC will require viewers to sign in with proof of a cable account 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.”
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.