Oscars to stream live Sunday, but only for some

You must live in one of eight cities and already pay one of eight television providers to access the first live digital stream of an Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday.

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Joan E. Solsman
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Preparations for Sunday's presentation of the 86th Oscar awards continued Tuesday, the first awards to be streamed live over the Internet. Richard Harbaugh/AMPAS

If you live in one of a handful of US cities and already pay for live TV, congratulations -- this year's Academy Awards go to you. Or rather, your phone.

The presentation ceremony for the Oscars -- routinely the most-watched live awards telecast of the year -- will be streamed live over the Internet for the first time by broadcaster ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the group that runs the awards.

ABC, which is owned by Disney, was the first broadcast network to enable live streaming of its programming online, but it has fenced it into markets where ABC itself owns the local station. And even in those cities, it's available only to people who subscribe to a TV service from a provider that's agreed to pay ABC for such digital rights.

Those distributor payments for digital rights have become a lucrative, growing stream of revenue for programmers like ABC, which are becoming emboldened to offer broader rights as more providers pay and as they learn the more access to video an audience has, the bigger the audience tends to get. That leaves would-be "cord cutters" out of luck, by design.

Thus, Sunday's Oscars live stream is available only to TV subscribers of Comcast, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Midcontinent Communications, Verizon FiOS, Google Fiber and AT&T U-verse -- and only those who live in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh-Durham, and Fresno, Calif.

Though the country's biggest TV distributor -- Comcast -- is on the list, it lacks the three providers that follow it in size by number of subscribers: Dish Network, DirecTV, and Time Warner Cable.

The Oscars begin Sunday at 5:30 p.m. PT. For those who qualify to watch the digital stream, it can be seen on Oscar.com, ABC.com, and WATCHABC.com or via the Watch ABC app.

For the rest of us, an "Oscars Backstage" show will also be streamed for anyone. It will include extra red carpet coverage and feeds from more than 15 live cameras placed there and throughout backstage areas of the Dolby Theatre, where the awards are presented.

(Via Variety)