ABC said that on Monday it will begin restricting access to complete episodes of new TV shows to customers of pay TV providers that it has signed to TV Everywhere authentication deals.
The move will prevent subscribers from DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) from watching new episodes of "Modern Family," "The Bachelor" and other ABC series on ABC.com in the week after their premiere. Only subscribers from AT&T (NYSE: T), Cablevision (NYSE: CVC), Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR), Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Cox Communications, Midcontinent and Verizon (NYSE: VZ) will be able to watch new episodes on WatchABC.com or through the Watch ABC mobile video app the day after their premiere, according to a notice ABC posted online late last month.
While ABC said it will also stop offering free, ad-supported versions of new episodes through Hulu, the network will allow premium Hulu Plus subscribers to watch new programs the day after their initial broadcast. Web surfers will also be able to pay $2.99 per episode to download high-definition programs from Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iTunes store or Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) Instant Video.
In August 2011, Fox became the first major network to limit access to complete versions of new TV episodes to authenticated pay TV or Hulu Plus subscribers. Both Fox and ABC own equity stakes in Hulu. Comcast's NBCUniversal, which also owns a stake in Hulu, continues to offer ad-supported versions of new TV shows online. CBS also offers complete episodes of new TV episodes on CBS.com.
The major programmers are relying on both carriage deals with major distributors and advertising sales to grow TV Everywhere revenue. Bob Iger, the CEO of ABC and ESPN parent Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS), told analysts in November that he expects to see a "growth spurt" this year from multiplatform ad revenue. "I think it is safe to assume that at some point in, sort of, 12 months or so, we'll start seeing even more growth in advertising revenue from Disney, ABC and ESPN mobile consumption," Iger said on an earnings call for Disney's fiscal fourth quarter.
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