ABC is not going down the subscription VOD route, at least for now: The Alphabet network is relaunching its video-streaming service with seven original digital short-form series, including shows starring Ty Burrell and Iliza Shlesinger, plus full seasons of 38 older shows — all available on the free, ad-supported service.
The network is launching the new digital shorts under the “ABCd” banner, an initiative that got under way last year as previously reported by Variety. Those, along with the “throwback” series, which include “Betrayal,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “Felicity,” “My So-Called Life,” “School House Rock,” “Sports Night” and “Ugly Betty,” will be available to all viewers on ABC.com and the ABC apps for mobile and connected TV devices without signing in. Other broadcasters, by contrast, have introduced Netflix-style pay services, like NBCUniversal’s Seeso and CBS All Access (while The CW’s CW Seed is also a free, ad-supported service with original series and library content).
“Our team has completely re-imagined the digital viewing experience for ABC fans,” said Karin Gilford, senior VP of digital media, ABC Television Network. She called the new ABCd original digital series “fun, fresh and perfect for mobile.”
The seven new ABCd comedy and lifestyle digital series were developed in-house by ABC Comedy Development, ABC Daytime and ABC Digital Media. The network says it has more than 40 additional series in development and will roll those out monthly.
“We hope this will be an opportunity for our existing talent to flex their creative muscles, and also an opportunity for audiences to discover and champion new emerging content creators,” Samie Falvey, executive VP of comedy and international scripted development, ABC Entertainment, said in a statement.
ABC also is touting a redesigned user interface of its app for Apple devices, including the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple TV, which is aimed at enhancing discovery and navigation. It also announced that live local streaming is now available for 14 of Hearst Television’s ABC-affiliated stations, accessible to subscribers of participating cable and satellite operators.
The new ABCd series are:
- “All My Gay Friends are Getting Married”: A celebration of gay marriage through the eyes of only mildly bitter single girl, Michelle Collins, who’s realizing that everyone is now getting married – except her.
- “Boondoogle”: After a life of obscurity, actor Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”) has finally made it big with a starring role in the hit series “Wingbot.” Now he and his “non-tourage” of best friends, Mel, Joel and Johnny, get to enjoy some of the perks of being a TV star. It’s time for these 40-something husbands and dads to cut loose – mostly on weekends and during reasonable hours. Starring Ty Burrell, Joel Spence, Mel Cowan and Johnny Meeks, all as themselves.
- “Forever 31”: Comedian Iliza Shlesinger and her friends struggle with the indignities of dead-end jobs, hangovers, dating, infidelity and all the rest of the absurdities of modern adulthood. Created by and starring Shlesinger.
- Tastemade’s “Get Cookin’”: Sponsored by Hefty, three creators in the Tastemade network – Erwan Heussaff, Lazarus Lynch, Megan Mitchell – present techniques, tips and recipes to take their food game to the next level. The chefs also will tell personal stories behind these dishes, why they matter and why they should be the next things to devour.
- “I Can Find $3,000 In Your Home”: EBay millionaire Linda Lightman believes that everyone has at least 52 items totaling at least $3,000 in their homes. In this series, she travels to households across the country to find the treasure in their trash.
- “Newborn Moms”: Comedic series about life as a new parent struggling with sleepless nights, self doubt and swollen boobs. Created by Aurora Browne and Nadine Djoury, the series follows two moms, Rosie and Julia, as they reconcile the kind of mothers they thought they would be with the kind they actually are. Starring Browne (Rosie) and Djoury (Julia).
- “On The Record”: An intimate “story behind the song” experience where songwriters perform an acoustic version of the song and share the inspiration behind it. The interviews will reveal the song’s meaning, personal anecdotes of its evolution, and its impact on the artist’s life and career. The first installment in the series features Hollywood Records recording artist Shawn Hook discussing his hit singles “Wonderful Surprise,” “Million Ways” and “Sound of Your Heart.” Future artists include Fancy Hagood and Yuna.
Full seasons of past shows now on ABC’s streaming service include: “8 Simple Rules,” “Benched,” “Betrayal,” “Body of Proof,” “Brothers & Sisters,” “Commander in Chief,” “Detroit,” “Dinosaurs,” “Dirty Sexy Money,” “Ellen,” “Felicity,” “FlashForward,” “Happy Town,” “Hope and Faith,” “I Survived a Japanese Game Show,” “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” “The Knights of Prosperity,” “Less Than Perfect,” “Manhattan Love Story,” “Mixology,” “My Generation,” “My So-Called Life,” “The Neighbors,” “October Road,” “Off the Map,” “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland,” “Perception,” “Reaper,” “Red Band Society,” “The River,” “Samantha Who?,” “School House Rock,” “Secret Millionaire,” “Smart Guy,” “Sports Night,” “Trophy Wife,” “Ugly Betty” and “What About Brian?”
ABC.com and the ABC app enables users nationwide to access full episodes of shows on demand, including “Dancing with the Stars,” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” “Modern Family,” “Quantico,” “Shark Tank” and “Scandal.” Additionally, subscribers of participating pay-TV providers get additional features, including the ability to watch a 24-hour live network stream in select markets, access exclusive programming events and the most recent episodes of ABC series and news programs the day after they air.
Under its agreement with Hearst Television, ABC is finally adding access to live 24-hour feeds including local, national and syndicated programming for subscribers of pay-TV partners for 14 Hearst stations — three years after the network launched live TV on the app for its eight owned-and-operated stations. ABC had originally expected to add affiliate stations by the fall of 2013. The Hearst stations are in Albuquerque-Santa Fe, N.M. (KOAT), Boston (WCVB and WMUR), Fort Smith-Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, Ark. (KHBS), Jackson, Miss. (WAPT), Kansas City (KMBC), Milwaukee (WISN), Monterey-Salinas, Calif. (KSBW-DT2), Oklahoma City (KOCO), Omaha, Neb. (KETV), Pittsburgh (WTAE), Portland-Auburn, Me. (WMTW), Savannah, Ga. (WJCL) and West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, Fla. (WPBF).
Hearst Television is the first affiliate group to launch the ABC live feed as part of ABC’s Clearinghouse initiative, extending the network’s live local reach to 20 markets, including the Alphabet’s already launched O&O stations in New York (WABC), Los Angeles (KABC), Chicago (WLS), San Francisco (KGO), Houston (KTRK), Fresno (KFSN), Philadelphia (WPVI) and Raleigh-Durham (WTVD).
The newly redesigned ABC app is available exclusively on Apple’s App Store and Apple TV App Store. The ABC app is also available on ABC.com, Amazon Appstore, Google Play, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Xbox 360.
Pictured above (l. to r.): “Boondoggle” cast members Johnny Meeks, Joel Spence, Mel Cowan and Ty Burrell