CBS Finally Lets You Stream Live Shows If You Already Pay for TV

But the perk is only available for customers of Cablevision

CBS will finally let people who are already paying for TV to stream its live programming — but only if they’re Cablevision customers.

On Tuesday, CBS and Cablevision launched limited live streaming through CBS.com and CBS’ app for people who are pay-TV subscribers with the New York-region cable company.

The move is a reminder of how inaccessible live television content can still be online, even from networks that theoretically should be the most freely available: broadcasters. Networks like CBS broadcast on public airwaves, available to anybody free with an antenna. However, the vast majority of U.S. consumers watch broadcast TV through a pay-TV operator like Cablevision or Comcast, meaning most people pay for free TV without perks like the ability to stream it online too.

Bringing live broadcast programming online, even for customers who already pay for it, is crimped and complicated by the station franchise system. ABC, for example, spent two years to secure the rights to live stream programming on its Watch ABC app, and its only available in eight cities.

Tuesday, CBS said customers of Cablevision’s Optimum TV service can view a live stream of CBS in cities where CBS owns and operates the local station. That includes New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Boston, Detroit, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

The move also keeps with Cablevision’s pattern of liberal streaming partnerships. The company, which serves about 3 million total customers in the greater New York metropolitan area, joined forces with HBO last March to launch its online-only streaming service HBO Now through Cablevision’s Internet service. The following month Cablevision agreed to distribute Hulu’s catalog of on-demand video to its Internet service customers.

And Cablevision made the similar offer last year with CBS’ stand-alone subscription, which allows cord cutters to watch most of the network’s live programming. CBS All Access is a $6-a-month online service that offers a live feed (which exceptions, like many NFL games) as well as shows on demand.

But unlike those deals, the CBS streaming launch Tuesday is available to people who are Cablevision’s pay-TV subscribers.