In a move that is sure to either send shockwaves throughout the industry or completely drop the ball in 2014, ABC has announced that beginning on Monday, January 6th, those of us that watch TV through the Internet will have to wait an extra week to see new episodes of ABC shows unless you verify on WATCHABC.com that you subscribe to a cable provider. This marks the first time in history that a basic American television network has decided to pursue what is essentially a subscription model, following the example set by HBO-GO, Netflix, and Amazon to require viewers to enter a log-in to view their content if one elects to watch their programs outside of the traditional media outlets.
In 2012, Nielsen estimated that while 290 million people in the US still consume video content through traditional means, 145 million people consume video content online (source: TechCrunch). Those statistics do not reflect the critical factor of audience retention that YouTube has prioritized to gauge ratings following PSY’s “Gangnam Style” phenomenon, but with the growing prevalence of mobile devices and Internet-based services in the average American home, there’s no stopping that statistical scale from two years ago from continuing to tip in the Internet’s favor.
All the same, as someone that has abandoned cable long ago to consume all of his TV through the magic of the Internet, this is grumble-worthy news as it will mean learning to live with a little extra wait to stay on top of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD…or does it? Maybe this is ABC’s way of encouraging fans like us to return to the glory days of when television was a precious novelty, and it was a bonafide event for communities to huddle around the set to watch new episodes of their favorite shows together in one big happy extended family.