The New York Times reported Tuesday that Disney is planning to expand the suite of video streaming apps it offers for smartphones and tablets. The new app for ABC will join existing live-streaming apps for ESPN and the Disney Channel.
They're called "Watch" apps, and Watch ABC would be the first to enable live-streaming of network broadcast content. The apps are proof that Disney is committed to delivering content to audiences whenever and wherever they want to consume it.
Disney owns ABC and with it, nine television stations, including KABC/Channel 7 in Los Angeles.
The company declined to comment on the Watch ABC app. But for analysts who follow Disney, the impending arrival of the app is consistent with how the entertainment giant is working with new technologies.
"Generally, Disney has been at the front lines of making content available on multiple devices," said Morningstar analyst Michael Corty, who's a proponent of what he and other observers of the industry call "TV Everywhere."
Corty noted that TV Everywhere has arrived at a slower pace than industry experts thought it would. He attributed the sluggishness to questions about how the advertising model will work.
Disney and other entertainment companies want viewers to watch programming on traditional TV because they have no good way to measure how content is consumed on other devices so they have no good way to price the advertising time major corporations buy.
But that doesn't mean Disney wants to fall behind the innovation curve. Corty said TV Everywhere makes a lot of sense to consumers.
"You should be able to access it how you want," he said. "What's really going on here is the 'windowing' of content. There's demand for this because people watch a lot of TV and [the industry] wants you to keep paying for it."
That's where the cable providers come in. Watch ABC will require users to pay for cable service in order to stream programs. So Disney won't attack Time Warner Cable or Comcast's business — rather, it will provide another way for audiences to watch TV while still demanding that they authenticate themselves as cable subscribers.
But where does this leave local broadcast stations and affiliates?
TV Everywhere may seem threatening. There's clearly a shift in viewing habits underway as younger viewers push for on-demand viewing via multiple screens.
But that shift isn't happening at an accelerated pace, and the habits of previous generations aren't vanishing.
"Most of our TV watching still happens on a TV," Corty said. "The majority of people are still watching the old fashioned way."
TV watchers may do more of their viewing via live streams on a mobile devices, but the programming they watch will likely be same as what's broadcast by ABC-owned stations and local affiliates.
The screen will just be smaller, and the viewing will happen on the go.