Monday, March 10, 2014

ABC's "Verify to Watch"

As of early January, the ABC Television Network requires internet viewers to login to their website by way of ones cable provider to watch the latest episodes of any of its T.V. shows. If you don't subscribe to cable television, you can't watch the show for eight days. The explanation ABC gives is ridiculously vague and obviously useless:

Pay TV service providers are a key part of the television industry in delivering broadcast content through new technology platforms. Now, with the support of participating pay TV service providers, the ABC network is able to continue to bring live entertainment, news and sports programming on a national and local level as well as the latest on-demand episodes on new, emerging digital platforms at no additional cost to their subscribers. This approach also allows ABC to offer several on-demand episodes that are available to everyone.

Did somebody write that with a straight face? The first sentence insinuates that cable companies are necessary for airing shows through new technology. No, they are not. The only new technology the network needs is the internet. Cable companies CAN be the provider for that, but they don't HAVE to be. The second sentence implies that cable companies assist in broadcasting at no additional cost. I believe that cable runs about $100 a month. That is hardly "no additional cost." Don't get technical with me about the wording, either. I see it refers to "subscribers." It's legal jargon meant to go over people's heads. They do think we're stupid, after all. Finally, they claim that it "allows" ABC to offer internet viewing, ignoring the fact that they previously offered internet viewing without the cable company's help, and so does Youtube. You don't need cable companies to put a video up on the internet. Anybody can do it.

So why are they doing this? Your guess is as good as mine. Some speculate that they are trying to pressure viewers into watching television the old fashioned way, in front of the set, at the time of airing. I think the cable companies pressured ABC into limiting online viewing during their last contract negotiation. Cable Company agreed to pay ABC extra money to stall the new platform. Cable companies are evil, after all. No sense in giving up your monopoly if you don't have to.

The main problem I have with this situation is that ABC is not a cable channel. Its content is available over the air for free. Airing content is not a gift to the public from ABC. The public graciously allows ABC to use the public airwaves, a deal which has helped ABC make an unimaginable amount of money over the last century. By treating cable subscribers differently than they treat antennae viewers, they are running afoul of the public interest. I have a good mind to complain to the Feds about this. Who the hell do I write a letter to? While I'm figuring that out, I've contacted ABC. Here is what I said:

"I missed Sunday nights episodes and cannot catch up with them because I do not have cable. This is a problem for serialized shows like Revenge, as I want to watch the episodes in chronological order. I am forced to wait until after the next episode airs before I can watch the current one.
I don`t understand why I have to verify a cable account for an over the air channel."
Their reply:
Hi ABC viewer,
Thank you for contacting WATCH ABC Customer Care regarding the changes to ABC. We highly value and appreciate your sentiments and do not take them lightly.   
As a company, we pride ourselves on producing the highest quality and most engaging programs for our viewers like yourself.
Please understand that producing this quality programming is costly. And TV service providers are key in helping us to make our content available.
Although you currently do not have a TV provider, there are still ways to enjoy your favorite ABC shows:
1. You can watch episodes starting 8 days after they air on abc.com or the WATCH ABC app on supported mobile device.
2. Many new episodes are available with a subscription to Hulu Plus, or for purchase on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.
Again, thank you for reaching out to us. If you have additional questions or comments, simply reply to this email
Kiara
WATCH ABC Support

Did the bitch even read my e-mail? She tells me I can catch up on the episodes that I missed AFTER the following episode airs. That's exactly when I don't want to watch them. I want to watch them BEFORE the next episode airs. Chronology, baby! As for cost, isn't that why I sit through annoying commercials? Advertising has been supporting the television industry for decades.

So, what do I do? My options are limited. Giving up the shows altogether is not appealing, since my television viewing is already severely limited. I only get four channels via my antennae, so I'm already effectively boycotting most of the television world. I do want to watch some television. I could switch my viewing  exclusively to the internet, putting my viewing schedule at least one week behind the airing one. This would allow me to watch the shows completely at my convenience. The only downside is that my computer desk chair is not as comfy as my couch. The third option is to just skip the episodes I missed. Whatever option I choose, and I'll have to make up my mind within the week, it won't be in line with what ABC and Evil Cable Company is trying to accomplish, because I'm still not getting cable.