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NBC begins offering live streaming TV via mobile apps

It was only a matter of time before NBC joined the ranks of networks offering live streaming content to viewers via mobile devices, and now everyone looking to watch NBC programming on their smartphones and tablets as it airs will have a few more options — accompanied by some major restrictions, of course.

NBC released the update to its iOS and Android apps this week, and it gives cable subscribers the ability to watch its stations’ programming live online. However, the streaming option is only available in areas where the network owns your local NBC station. Cable subscribers in cities where the local NBC station is an independent affiliate won’t be able to view the live streams.

The requirement of authentication through a cable provider, as well as available access only for viewers in certain regions both stand as serious limitations, helping to outline how complex the landscape of online viewing from major networks can be.

Related: NBC will live stream the Super Bowl for free

The move to offer live, streaming programming continues to put NBC into the competitive mix with rival networks ABC and CBS, but the conditions for viewing programming from each network differ dramatically. ABC is the least-restrictive of the trio, requiring only a cable television subscription to view its streaming programming on the ABC app, while CBS requires a monthly subscription to view live programming online via its CBS All Access service. (A limited number of CBS show episodes can be viewed for free on the app, however.)

It’s worth noting that NFL games will be exempt from any of the live streaming programming options available from NBC’s online services.

“Our stations are committed to making it easy and convenient for viewers to watch our programming and this is one more step in that effort,” said NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations President Valari Staab in a statement accompanying the announcement.

Given Comcast’s ownership of NBC, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the network’s live, streaming service still heavily favors both a cable subscription and negotiated arrangements with local affiliates.

Along with announcing the new live option for viewing programming on NBC’s iOS and Android apps, the network also announced some additional programming added to its on-demand library for viewers to access including The A-Team, Miami Vice, Kojak, Battlestar Galactica, The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider and others.