CW will be the first network to stream shows on Apple TV

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While it may not be a full-fledged HDTV, the Apple TV set-top box continues to expand its portfolio. According to a story first reported by Deadline, the CW is bringing its video content to the Apple TV via a dedicated app.

The CW offering would mimic what the network already has on Microsoft’s Xbox; the network confirmed to MacRumors that the app will feature ad-supported full episodes available for streaming the day after they air. And, in a bonus for cord cutters, the app will not require an existing cable subscription to view content. A specific release date for the app has not yet been announced, though it should be sooner rather than later.

The CW's Xbox app already offers free, ad-supported streams of episodes the day after air.

This marks the first foray from one of the major broadcast networks onto the Apple TV, though the box already features content from video middlemen like Hulu and Netflix; sports leagues like MLB, NHL, and NBA; video-sharing sites Vimeo and YouTube; and other video sources, like the Wall Street Journal.

Thus far, video content has only gradually trickled onto the Apple TV: Hulu Plus, for example, just appeared last July. But the appearance of a CW app could signal a shift in the winds. With the recent incursion of Aereo into the broadcast space, the networks are sure to be looking for ways to keep control of their content. ABC recently announced that it would begin offering live streaming in its iOS app—but only in certain markets, and only for cable and satellite subscribers. Meanwhile, many of the studios and networks continue to enforce availability windows and device-specific streaming rights.

The move by the CW is particularly interesting because many of the networks and studios have been loathe to make their content easily available on TV screens, fearing that it would cut into their traditional revenue streams. It’s little surprise, in that case, that the CW is the first to float a trial balloon—as the smallest of the broadcast networks, it has the most to gain; it also tends to feature shows with small but devoted followings, who are likely to actively hunt down episodes.

Of course, there’s pressure from the other side, too: The iTunes Store has long sold TV shows by the season and episode, providing direct revenue to the TV networks. Will the addition of an ad-supported streaming service cannibalize sales of TV shows? My gut says not significantly: Most consumers are still used to watching ads and paying monthly fees to consume their TV shows; purchasing TV by the episode has never quite caught on the way it has for songs.

The success of the CW app may help determine this streaming future; if it proves to help the network’s bottom line, it may encourage compatriots such as CBS, which partially owns the CW, and ABC, which historically has a close relationship with Apple, to dip their toes into the pool as well.

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