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Streaming Delivers Viewers to Networks

PBS Kids’ new “Super Vision” app for the Apple Watch lets parents limit their children’s screen time on by setting a simple Play Timer on the watch.

ONTARIO—Streaming is delivering some impressive results for America’s TV networks. To date, ABC has garnered a combined 1.78 billion views of its content across the Web, mobile and connected TVs. The network’s Watch ABC app, which serves a range of smartphone and tablet platforms, has been downloaded more than 23 million times.

NBC has had similarly impressive results through its NBC Sports Live Extra app, which serves authenticated cable/satellite TV subscribers. NBC Sports served 10.8 million hours of streaming video to viewers during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. During the 2015 Super Bowl weekend alone, there were over 500,000 downloads of the NBC Sports Live Extra app. According to Adobe Analytics, this app set a Super Bowl record for average viewers per minute (800,000), concurrent users (1.3 million) and total minutes viewed (213 million).

Clearly, streaming video is proving to be a rich resource for viewers. Here are a few examples of how the networks are mining this resource.

During streaming video’s short history (which encompasses OTT and TV Everywhere), broadcasters have generally followed an ad-supported simulcast of their broadcast content; sometimes supplemented by additional clips and extras made available to Web surfers. (In some cases, broadcasters have insisted on surfers proving that they subscribe to either cable or satellite TV services through an online authentication process. In other cases, such as watching content on, they have not.)

The standout exception to this approach is CBS. Last October, CBS launched “CBS All Access,” a $5.99/month, direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service available across the Web, mobile and more recently, Roku players. In doing so, CBS took a page from Netflix’s book, by providing viewers with access to the network’s most popular shows, both current and historical, on an on-demand basis. CBS All Access also provides live streams from the network’s 14 O&Os. At last month’s NAB Show, CBS announced that it had struck carriage agreements with its affiliates to boost the number of live streamed CBS stations to 56 markets.

FastShare is a new WATCH ABC feature that allows viewers to share pre-selected scenes from their favorite shows on Facebook or Twitter in real time, as they watch.

“We are going after both CBS super fans and the ‘cord never’ consumers; the people who may have never had a traditional cable package and are consuming their video content through the Web,” said Rob Gelick, senior vice president and general manager of Digital Platforms for CBS Interactive Entertainment. “At the same time, we are seeing men and women from all demographics subscribing to CBS All Access. The service was created for and is particularly attractive to CBS ‘superfans’ who want even more CBS programming.”

CBS All Access is well-suited to grab new clients during “Season Finale Season,” when broadcast viewers’ favorite TV shows are wrapping up. “At this time of year, viewers are willing to check out series that they may have overlooked during the traditional broadcast season and catch up on what they may have missed,” Gelick said. “CBS All Access gives them the chance to delve into these series right from the start, and to watch as many episodes as they want when they want to.”

NBC’s great Olympics and Super Bowl streaming video numbers have not gone unnoticed at 30 Rock. With the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs now underway, NBC has enhanced the graphics for NHL games viewed using NBC Live Sports Extra. Users can access the interactive feature as they watch the video through the app—including real-time player and game statistics, roster listings, and live rink maps showing shot locations, blocked shots, goals, face offs, hits, giveaways and takeaways. Also, every goal, penalty and gamechanging event is quickly made available to viewers to replay using the app’s redesigned Key Events bar.

“We are consistently working on improving the streaming experience for our viewers,” said Jack Jackson, vice president of product development, NBC Sports Group. “With these new tools, fans streaming NHL games on Live Extra have more real-time information at their fingertips than ever before.” These extra features allow NBC Sports Live Extra to serve as a standalone viewing experience, or a second screen that can be used while watching the games on an HDTV screen.

ABC’s Watch app provides authenticated users with access to the network’s most popular programs both live and on demand, plus live feeds from eight ABC O&Os. This summer, ABC Family will launch a revised version of the Watch ABC Family app, allowing viewers to browse curated photo/video feeds for each episode that include viewer comments from social media, and “insider” show clips that viewers can post to their social media accounts—all in real-time, as viewers are streaming programming.

Overall, the revised WATCH ABC Family app will target the network’s content to younger, tech-toting viewers. “Our audience is comprised of mobile natives,” said Tom Ascheim, president of ABC Family. “They live in a digital world and have the expectation that their shows will be available to them on whatever device they are on. The WATCH ABC Family app delivers on that expectation.”

Fox says it has now made its FOX NOW TV Everywhere service available to more than 80 percent of all U.S. cable/satellite/telco TV subscribers, following the recent inclusion of DirecTV. FOX NOW viewers get to see the network’s shows the next morning after they air. FOX NOW content is available on the latest iOS, Android and Windows mobile devices, plus connected TV platforms such as Apple TV and Roku.

“We’re one big step closer to making full episodes of Fox shows available to every single pay-TV customer in America, on nearly every major mobile and connected device,” said David Wertheimer, president, Digital, Fox Broadcasting Co. “Together with forward-thinking partners like DirecTV, we are turning TV Everywhere from a catch phrase into a reality.” In addition to DirecTV, major video providers supporting authentication for Fox Now and include AT&T U-verse, Bright House Networks, Cablevision, Charter, Comcast Xfinity, Cox, Dish, Mediacom, Suddenlink, Time Warner Cable and Verizon FiOS.

PBS’s PBS Video website provides access to a wide range of PBS’ most popular programs, plus clips and previews. Users can also access videos from their local PBS station, using a selectable menu. The PBS app offers a similar level of content access; the network also has a range of apps tied to specific program such as “American Experience,” “Nova,” and “PBS News Hour.”

PBS Kids has just released a “Super Vision” app for the Apple Watch. It lets parents set time limits for kids using, sending them messages on the watch face when it is time for them to take a break.

James Careless

James Careless is an award-winning journalist who has written for TV Technology since the 1990s. He has covered HDTV from the days of the six competing HDTV formats that led to the 1993 Grand Alliance, and onwards through ATSC 3.0 and OTT. He also writes for Radio World, along with other publications in aerospace, defense, public safety, streaming media, plus the amusement park industry for something different.