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Affiliates Weigh ‘Watch ABC' App Proposals

ABC has its owned stations on board for its live mobile Watch ABC app, which launches in New York and Philadelphia May 14, and needs buy-in from its affiliate groups to give the venture significant scale. The topic had a large presence at the ABC affiliates board meeting in Las Vegas last month and, while the particulars still need to be ironed out, it continues to be well received by the stations.

"The combination of taking local news and local programming and combining it with network and syndicated programming in 200-plus markets across the country has worked well for many years," Dave Boylan, ABC affiliates board chairman, told B&C. "As we go to new platforms and new devices, the ability to reach consumers with new technologies is very encouraging." 

ABC affiliates privately say the details of retransmission consent fee sharing with the network for iPhone and iPad viewing still have to be worked out. But they're pleased to be part of the conversation, and happy to see the network does not appear to be bypassing affiliates and going directly to viewers. They also give ABC credit for being the first out among the broadcast networks with such a product.

Hearst Television has inked a deal to live stream ABC content for paid subscribers on its 13 ABC affiliates, which include WCVB Boston, WMUR Manchester (NH), WPBF West Palm Beach and WTAE Pittsburgh.

"Hearst Television recognizes that consumers want the ability to view our stations' programming on any device that has a screen," said David Barrett, chairman and CEO, Hearst Television. "Our Hearst ABC affiliates are eager to work with the ABC team to deploy the innovative Watch app experience in our local markets."

Having a blue-chip broadcaster such as Hearst TV on board sends a clear message to the affiliates.
Scripps and Allbritton are other substantial ABC affiliates holders. Scripps senior VP Brian Lawlor was not available for comment. Allbritton, which announced it was exploring a potential sale May 1, is waiting to hear from ABC with the Watch ABC proposal, according to Jerald Fritz, Allbritton's senior VP for legal and strategic affairs. He likes the concept. 

"It's another platform that allows us to get our programming out to more people," Fritz says. "We're anxious to see how it works."
ABC's streaming service will launch as a free preview on May 14, to coincide with ABC's upfront presentation in New York, and will be available to all viewers through a special open access preview with WABC New York and WPVI Philadelphia through the end of June. It will roll out in the other six ABC-owned markets this summer: Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham and Fresno.

Boylan is enthused by the development. "There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered," he says. "But we like the direction it's going."