The last few months have seen an interesting growth in broadcast companies streaming their live content to customers. ABC offers a service which, as long as you have a cable subscription, allows you to watch their network live on your mobile device. CBS offers a similar service, except you aren't required to have cable, but you are required to pay $6 per month for the ability, cable or not. Even the Best of CES was Sling, a service which gives you an Internet-based cable subscription, complete with networks like Cartoon Network, Disney and even ESPN.
This week, NBC has joined the ranks of CBS and ABC in offering their own mobile streaming service of live content. Like ABC, you will be required to prove your cable subscription, but the service will be provided for free, unlike the CBS service. Unfortunately, not everyone will qualify, however. NBC has to own your local affiliate - it can't be a privately held network. Your cable provider also has to be a participating provider, meaning if you have a smaller cable company, you might still not get access, even if NBC owns your local market.
Luckily, the wholly owned requirement could be fixed in time, as NBC plans to work out agreements with locally owned affiliates. That is good news for me, because our local affiliate, WFLA, is owned by Media General Communications Holdings, meaning the service will not immediately be available in the Tampa Bay area. After that, the network will need to work out a deal with our cable provider, whose agreements with NBC will likely not cover this feature.
For those of you who match all of the requirements, the service is available on the web, and through updates to NBC's Android and iOS apps, which were published this week. You will also still get the ability to stream past episodes of current and older shows, including some early NBC shows like The Incredible Hulk and Knight Rider. Hopefully this feature will also come to Windows Phone, which currently offers CNBC, Syfy, USA and Bravo streaming, but not NBC proper.
With all of these live streaming services coming directly from the networks, it really begins to become clear why they fought Aereo so hard. It is significantly more difficult to promote your own service when someone else is doing it better for the same price. If you do not match all of the requirements for any of these services, just remember that there are options that duplicate the service, similar to setting up your own private Aereo.