It will stream ad-supported episodes of Lost, Desperate Housewives, Alias and Commander in Chief during two-month trial and is looking to find “an effective online model…in which our affiliates can take part.”
Disney-ABC Television Group announced today that it will offer ad-supported, full-length episodes of four ABC primetime series online at www.ABC.com as part of a two-month-long experiment. Current episodes of Lost, Desperate Housewives and Commander in Chief, as well as the entire present season of Alias, will be available for streaming during May and June, in what Disney called “the first time a broadcast network has made multiple series available for viewing online, free of charge to consumers.” The move was first revealed last month when the network’s top salesman, Mike Shaw, discussed it at the American Association of Advertising Agencies Media Conference (TVNewsCheck, March 2).
“The evolution of ABC.com is just one piece of our comprehensive, digital media multiplatform business initiative,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney-ABC Television Group. “This announcement highlights the momentum we’ve achieved both in launching new broadband services and working with strategic partners in the digital media space, to ensure that our high-quality, informative and entertaining content is available to consumers whenever and wherever they choose.”
ABC is also exploring ways to work with its local broadcast affiliates on these online offerings as they continue to evolve. “Our ultimate goal is to find an effective online model, one in which our affiliates can take part,” stated Alex Wallau, president, operations and administration, ABC Television Network. “To that end, we’ll be sharing information from this two-month test in our discussions going forward, and working on ways for them to participate in this new method of delivering ABC programming.”
“Our mission with this trial is to gather key learning about the technology and the consumers who utilize it in order for ABC.com to become the leading broadband digital entertainment experience, packed with innovative, immersive content for our viewers,” said Albert Cheng, executive vice president, digital media, Disney-ABC Television Group. “In the months ahead, ABC.com will not only deliver a high quality, on-demand viewing experience to users, but will also gain valuable knowledge and research to help us better understand and serve our consumers in the rapidly evolving digital world.”
As part of the trial, ABC has offered 10 advertisers the opportunity to test possible in-stream broadband advertising models as well as the ability to take advantage of sponsorships. The unique interactive video ads will take many different forms and will be seen within each episode. Participating advertisers include AT&T, Cingular, Ford, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever’s Suave, Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures, among others.
“We have said all along that we are dedicated to finding ways to bring our advertiser partners along with us as we embrace new ways of doing business in the world of digital media,” said Mike Shaw, president, sales and marketing, ABC Television Network. “This unique project has allowed us to offer our advertisers the ability to deliver increased effectiveness in their messaging through targeted and engaging interactive ads that offer compelling consumer experiences.”
ABC.com will offer episodes the day after they premiere on the linear channel. Consumers will be able to pause and move back and forth between “chapters” within each episode, but will not have the ability to fast-forward through advertisements. Episodes will be streamed in 16×9 formatting which Disney said “offers a cinema-like feel to the viewing experience.”
The episodes will be encoded and streamed in Flash 8 which Disney said “offers the best video quality and allows users on both Mac and PC platforms to watch the video, episode will be offered in two different sizes.” The standard viewing size is 500×282 pixels (streamed at 400kbs) and the larger viewing size is 700×394 pixels (streamed 700 kbps).
Additionally, the Disney-ABC Television Group announced it will launch Soapnetic, a broadband channel dedicated to soap fans, on April 17. Providing what Disney called “comprehensive coverage of all nine current soap operas, as well as classic and original programming, the gated broadband service, an extension of the linear SOAPnet channel, will be accessible at launch to Verizon consumer broadband customers.”
Previously, the Disney announced that full episodes of popular original series from Disney Channel and Jetix will be available for viewing online starting later this spring. Kids will be able to log on to DisneyChannel.com and Jetix.tv and stream full-length episodes of That’s So Raven, The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Kim Possible, Power Rangers and Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!, among other series, free and on-demand.
“These two announcements represent the next steps in our comprehensive, digital media multiplatform business initiative,” said Sweeney. “In the future, consumers will rely more and more on strong brands to help them navigate the digital world, and we have some of the strongest brands in entertainment. Our digital media efforts will help us strengthen our connection with our consumers. Stay tuned…because this is just the beginning.”