Unfortunately, the new app is currently in "preview mode" and only works in New York City (WABC-TV) and Philadelphia (WPVI). However, the company promises that more cities are expected to be added this summer including Los Angeles (KABC-TV), Chicago (WLS-TV), San Francisco (KGO-TV), Houston (KTRK-TV), Raleigh-Durham (WTVD-TV) and Fresno (KFSN-TV).
"We're extremely excited to offer this open access preview to our WABC and WPVI viewers in New York and Philadelphia. This announcement represents a defining moment in technology and distribution, as well as for our advertising and affiliate partners, as we ensure that our high-quality content is available to viewers on a variety of devices," said Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks, and President, Disney/ABC Television Group.
ABC said it has also reached an agreement with Hearst Television to launch the WATCH ABC service in their 13 ABC station markets, which include Boston, Pittsburgh, Kansas City and Milwaukee, in the coming months. Additional agreements with other station groups will be announced prior to the new Fall Season, the company said.
News of ABC's live TV streaming app arrives as Aereo slowly creeps across the nation, threatening to disrupt the current cable subscription system. The company said on Tuesday that more than 5.3 million Atlanta, Georgia, metropolitan-area consumers will have access to its innovative antenna technology to watch live TV online starting June 17.
"We're grateful and humbled by the continued support we've received from consumers for our technology," said Aereo CEO and Founder Chet Kanojia. "The response and enthusiasm from consumers across all of our expansion cities has been phenomenal. It's clear that consumers want more choice and flexibility in how they watch television and they don't want to be fenced into expensive, outdated technology."
Aereo is a major threat to the likes of ABC and NBC because its network of antennas pulls the TV signals out of the air and pipes them directly to a subscriber's device, whether it's a Windows-based laptop, a Mac or an iPad. What's more, subscribers can use the service like a DVR to record content for watching at a later date. TV networks aren't paid for over-the-air transmissions, and they claim that Aereo is "stealing" their signals to make a profit.
"We believe in our legal rights," said Chase Carey, Chief Operating Officer of News Corp. "We’re going to pursue those legal rights fully and completely, and we believe we’ll prevail. But we want to be clear. If we can’t have our rights properly protected through legal and political avenues, we will pursue business solutions. One such business solution would be to take the [FOX] network and turn it into a subscription service."
The advantage ABC will have over Aereo will be that the app is free, and Aereo subscribers must pay $7.99 per month. But WATCH ABC doesn't offer DVR functionality, so it will be interesting to see which will prevail -- especially if other networks take a hint and provide free streaming live TV on mobile devices as well.
But as it stands now, networks have a very long battle ahead, as Aereo will stream 27 over-the-air broadcast channels in Atlanta alone starting next month.