Fox Broadcasting is live streaming all of its primetime programming, saying it’s targeting viewers who want to tune into programs online instead of using television sets.
The caveat? It’s a big one: You have to be a pay-TV subscriber. (And, if you’re looking to catch live prime time sports, you won’t find it.)
The streams begin this week and are available in 210 TV markets nationwide through the Fox website and its Fox Now app.
Fox also plans to live stream late night Saturday programming.
Fox says 98% of pay-TV subscribers will have access to its streams, which is slightly more than the number of pay-TV subscribers in the U.S. who have access to a service providers TV Everywhere play.
For local affiliates, it’s an opportunity to insert local ads, and to maintain local branding through station breaks.
“From the start of the on-demand and over-the-top viewing revolution, Fox has been at the forefront of providing greater access to our buzz-defining shows, like Empire, Lucifer, Scream Queens and Family Guy,” said Dana Walden and Gary Newman, chairmen and CEOs of Fox Television Group. “Adding nationwide primetime live streams is just another great example of how the Fox Digital Consumer Group, under Brian Sullivan’s leadership, is innovating to give viewers the convenience and flexibility to watch our programming whenever and wherever they want.”
Fox says there’s already been good play of the apps needed for streaming Fox, with some 25 million downloads.
Fox isn’t alone among the networks. NBC offers live streaming in some markets and CBS All Access also is available nationwide for $6 a month.
But, will it reach Millennials?
Some sobering statistics from a recent Pew Research Center study:
- Nearly a quarter of Americans (24%) currently have no pay-TV service (15% cut the cord, 9% are cord nevers).
- About a fifth (19%) of 18- to 29-year-olds told Pew they’d cut the cord and 16% more said they have never had a pay-TV subscription.
- Nearly three-quarters (74%) of all non-subscribers said pay-TV was too expensive.
- The number of smartphone-only homes in the U.S., Pew found, climbed to 13% in 2015, up from 8% two years earlier.
Those are ugly numbers for broadcasters and pay-TV operators, and the change they reveal is only accelerating.
Fox’s decision to live stream primetime possibly will help make pay-TV stickier, convincing some subscribers to hang around a little longer. And, of course, it also doesn’t upset the retransmission apple cart and gives local affiliates the opportunity to present a local face online.
But dipping its toe into the streaming water isn’t really enough.
The likelihood of reaching the audience they really need, the ones that brands desperately want – the cord-never Millennials and their Gen Edge followers – is slim.
Follow me on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn