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ABC Unveils Live Streaming Plan in Fight Against Aereo USA Today

ABC is taking the broadcasters’ battle with streaming video startup Aereo to the Internet firm’s home turf. USA Today reports that the network this week “will start streaming its entire programming schedule in real-time to viewers in New York and Philadelphia. This marks the first time one of the major broadcasters has streamed a 24-hour live feed online.”

“However, there are a few key differences between ABC's and Aereo's approach: After a six-week introductory phase that will be open to anyone in the two markets, ABC's streams will only be available to authenticated cable subscribers. And ABC is using cloud technology to deliver its live streams, making the endeavour a whole lot cheaper than Aereo's,” the story reports.

ABC was scheduled to begin streaming its programs to iOS devices in the two markets today, with the plan being to expand the initiative rapidly to other markets where ABC owns local TV stations. “Viewers served by ABC affiliates may get access to the live streams a bit later -- ABC first has to negotiate revenue sharing for advertising served on the live streams and navigate the treacherous waters of content licensing,” USA Today reports.

The report adds: “Ken Brueck, co-founder and CMO of upLynk, the company that powers the live streaming for ABC, thinks it's only a matter of time before affiliates join the live stream. That's because, from a technology perspective, ABC's live streaming is incredibly cheap: Local affiliates who want to live stream their feed only need a simple $1,000 Linux box that taps into their live broadcast feed and uploads everything to the cloud, where transcoding happens in real time.

“Specialized software on the upLynk device also taps into the broadcaster's programming guide, and Uplynk swaps out programming on the fly if the broadcaster doesn't have the rights to air a certain show online. Also swapped out are ads, with ABC replacing its generic TV advertising with targeted ads served to iOS devices.”

The $1,000 box, combined with upLynk's cloud transcoding, amounts to a breakthrough in broadcasters’ efforts to accomplish live streaming. “Previously, live streaming would have required them to deploy hardware encoders to each and every affiliate, something that Brueck estimates would have cost many millions of dollars. Now, the transcoding is done by Amazon's EC2,” the piece reports.

“That's an approach that Aereo can't take advantage of, because it has to transcode a unique feed for each and every customer, which is why Aereo's roll-out is much more expensive -- and has been somewhat slow. The startup, which captures live programming from major broadcasters with tiny personal antennas and then streams it to subscribers, announced that it wants to be in 22 cities by the end of 2013. But so far, it's only available in New York.”

The downside for ABC and broadcasters is that ABC doesn’t have the rights to stream all programming online, “so upLynk's cloud servers occasionally have to swap out programming on the fly,” the story reports.

Said Brueck: "Sometimes, your content is going to be different" from what’s carried on live TV. The piece notes: “He added that he hopes that ABC's new live streaming app can help the entire industry to sort out these kinds of issues.”