ABC News Launches Apple TV Channel,

Apple TV set-top also adds AOL, PBS Kids and cricket subscription service Willow TV

ABC News is the first major television news outlet to launch on Apple TV, with a lineup of free, ad-supported content — including live hourly updates and some local dispatches — with no pay-TV subscription required.

The Alphabet net lacks a cable news channel, unlike broadcast peers Fox and NBC. Now, through Apple TV, ABC News has 24-hour over-the-top network of sorts available on big-screen TVs. CBS, meanwhile, which also doesn’t have a cable news net, has been exploring a similar digital news service for several years.

Also Tuesday, Apple TV added apps for AOL On, PBS Kids and cricket subscription service Willow TV, plus an updated app for Yahoo’s Flickr — bringing the set-top’s lineup to 37 third-party channels, including Netflix, YouTube and Hulu Plus.

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The ABC News channel on Apple TV includes live and on-demand content from “Good Morning America,” “World News with Diane Sawyer,” “Nightline,” “20/20,” and “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

The channel features four separate live video streams with coverage of events — including the daily White House press briefing — and breaking news throughout the day. Local news updates are available from the nine ABC-owned stations across the country, as well as Hearst TV’s Milwaukee affiliate WISN. In addition, ABC News offers a VOD library with 50 years of historical video footage.

“The idea of this is to put users in control of their news,” said Joe Ruffolo, SVP of ABC News Digital.

Apple TV added ABC’s WatchABC service late last year, but to watch primetime shows and select live TV telecasts users must subscribe to a participating cable or telco TV provider.

By contrast, the Alphabet net’s news division is not going the authenticated route, determining that it can gain wider reach by not putting ABC News behind a pay-TV wall. The news division is expanding its advertising inventory on Apple TV, a device that has the potential to push viewing time longer than other platforms. ESPN, ABC’s cable sports cousin, has seen usage of the authenticated WatchESPN app on Apple TV exceed average viewing time on its linear TV nets, Ruffolo noted: “This expands our business model.”

ABC News produces about eight hours of live programming per day, much of which is already available on the web and on Apple iOS and Android devices. With Apple TV, ABC News is curating content for younger audiences on the biggest screen in the house, and will include some content exclusive to the set-top, according to Ruffolo.

Live coverage includes video updates on the hour, with up to five live updates daily from correspondents and reporters worldwide. The ABC News app on Apple TV includes special sections (called “shelves”) on such topics as Iraq and the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

On-demand local news and weather updates are available from the nine ABC-owned stations (WABC in New York, KABC in Los Angeles, WLS in Chicago, WPVI in Philadelphia, KGO in San Francisco, KTRK in Houston, WTVD in Raleigh, N.C., and KFSN in Fresno, Calif.) and Hearst station WISN in Milwaukee. The local stations have the ability to sell their own advertising for the VOD content on Apple TV, Ruffolo said.

Initially, ABC News on Apple TV is available only in the U.S.; the network plans to extend access to additional territories in the coming weeks.

ABC News is eyeing other connected-TV platforms, such as Roku and Google’s Chromecast. But getting on Apple TV was important, because “it’s a very small club of people who are invited to have apps on Apple TV,” Ruffolo said. ABC News is not paying Apple to be added to the device’s lineup.

In addition to ABC News, Apple TV added:

  • AOL On: Library of 900,000 video clips available to users in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. in categories including news, entertainment, tech, food and sports. Content includes access to AOL’s original series including “#Candidly Nicole,” “Hardwired,” “city.ballet” and “Fatherhood.” Apple TV is the 15th connected-video platform for AOL On.
  • PBS Kids: Children’s series from pubcaster available to U.S. users include “Curious George,” “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That,” “Dinosaur Train,” “Super Why!,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Peg + Cat,” “Sesame Street” and “Wild Kratts.”
  • Willow TV: Subscription cricket broadcasting service in the U.S. and Canada ($14.99 per month) provides live streaming, replays and highlights of top cricket leagues including the Indian Premier League, BCCI (India), Cricket Australia, Cricket South Africa, The Pakistan Cricket Board, The Bangladesh Cricket Board and more.
  • Flickr: Updated version of app now lets users log in directly on Apple TV to access photos, videos, albums and groups as well as view top-trending photos and curated galleries, among other features.

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