Even with the addition of Chris Rock as the host, this year's Academy Awards live broadcast on ABC is likely to continue the recent trend of progressively lower ratings. So in this era of cutting the cord and increased competition for viewers, why can't you stream the Academy Awards live?
The short answer is that broadcast network owners and executives are greedy idiots. But the longer answer is....well, they're greedy idiots.
It turns out that you can stream the Oscars live if you happen to live in one of a small number of cities where it's allowed. And even then, you have to be a subscriber to cable or satellite TV so you can "authenticate" yourself using your TV subscriber login information. This weirdness is just the latest wrinkle in the industry's wrangling over retransmission rights, the ability to stream live signals and the overall trend in squeezing every possible dollar out of their hapless viewers.
When your cable or satellite television company wants to include local TV stations in their offerings, they are required to negotiate with the local station for what is known as "retransmission rights." For the first couple of decades, that approval was generally wrapped in as part of a much larger negotiation. So, for instance, ABC would grant Comcast the rights to stream their owned-and-operate ABC affiliates if Comcast would agree to carry a new channel such as ESPN 12 or SoapNet. But in the past 4-5 years, those negotiations have moved to an all-cash deal. The broadcast networks see retransmission rights as a great place to squeeze a bit more money out of everyone by insisting to be paid for retransmission rights. Those payments have grown from almost nothing to several billion dollars and those no end in sight to the increases. As a thank you for paying those fees, networks and their affiliates have been negotiating streaming rights for local TV station signals. In the case of CBS, these stations are generally being rolled into the CBS All Access App, which costs about $6 a month.
In the case of ABC, the network has been slowly cutting deals to allow customers to stream live signals at ABC.com, through the Watch ABC app and a few other places such as Sling TV (if you subscribe to the "Live & More" tier). But the deals are only in place for a few affiliates and they require having authenticated TV subscriber credentials.
So if you live in the Chicago, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, and San Francisco markets, you can stream the Oscars live tonight with authenticated credentials. Otherwise, you're stuck with video replays of the highlights overnight.