Report: ABC building live streaming TV app, Hulu's future in doubt

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Walt Disney Company-owned broadcast network ABC is at work on a live streaming application enabling cable and satellite subscribers to view both national and local programming via smartphones and tablets, The New York Times reports.

Citing sources briefed on the project, the report states the ABC app--expected to launch later this year--resembles Disney's existing Watch live-streaming and on-demand video apps featuring content from the entertainment giant's ESPN and Disney Channel properties. The Watch ABC app also could extend ads that run on the network to the mobile channel. The app faces several hurdles, however: Some contracts between the network and its content partners predate the advent of mobile video streaming--moreover, ABC must also assuage the concerns of its local affiliates, and the company is already in talks with stations to explore including them in the app.

An ABC spokesperson declined to comment.

With the launch of the Watch app, ABC would become the first of the four major U.S. broadcast networks to stream live content directly to mobile devices. Last week, rival CBS rolled out its CBS App for Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone and iPad, promising users full episodes of the Tiffany Network's primetime, daytime and late-night programs but in some cases not making content available on mobile until eight days after an episode's initial broadcast.

The development of Watch ABC calls into question the future of Hulu, the online streaming video site co-owned by Disney, News Corp. and silent partner Comcast. The New York Times reports Comcast and News Corp. are deliberating what direction to take with Hulu, which has lost most of its original executive backers at NBC and Fox and will soon lose founding CEO Jason Kilar, who is stepping down this month; Kilar recently wrote a message to Hulu staffers stating "Disney and News Corporation are currently finalizing their forward-looking plans with Hulu, and the senior team has been working closely with them in that process. Once the plans are finalized, a permanent decision will be made regarding the CEO position."

Insiders say Disney is mulling a plan to buy out Comcast and News Corp.--others contend News Corp. is exploring its own deal to buy out Disney and Comcast, and it is also possible that a third party could purchase Hulu outright. All three companies also could retain their stakes and revamp the Hulu business; sources day Disney remains bullish on Hulu's original free, ad-supported model, while News Corp. is more supportive of the Hulu Plus monthly subscription service.

Sources add that regardless of the outcome, Hulu's owners appear most interested in maintaining their existing relationships with cable and satellite providers. ABC Watch, which would require viewers to log into the app prove they are paying subscribers, fits squarely within that mindset.

For more:
- read this New York Times article

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