April 10, 2006

More on Disney / ABC on-demand

Posted in Technology, Television at 1:51 pm by antonello

More on ABC’s episodes on demand service. More information about the venture is available on the Wall Street Journal. I don’t have a subscription, but this (via Jeff Jarvis) outlines some of what ABC is planning.

On April 30, ABC will unveil a revamped Web site that will include a “theater” where people with broadband connections can watch free episodes of “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost” and other hit shows on their computers. Episodes will be available the morning after they air and will be archived so people can eventually view a whole season. A Disney Channel version with five shows will start in June, and an ABC Family version is also planned. Disney’s Soapnet cable channel will start offering programs free on its Web site, Soapnetic, on April 17.

Episodes of the ABC shows — which can be paused, rewound and fast-forwarded — will contain commercial breaks that viewers can’t skip, making Disney hopeful it has figured out a way to turn the delivery of programs over the Web into a profit-generating business. Ten advertisers, including Ford Motor Co., Procter & Gamble, Universal Pictures and Unilever, already have signed up.

The initiative, to be announced today by Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, marks a watershed: the first time a TV company is offering major prime-time shows free online without restriction.

This idea is less exciting to me that it was initially. Having episodes on demand is fantastic. Going to the ABC site to watch it is less fantastic. Advertisters certainly get what they want – broadband ads with a brand that they trust. Users don’t benefit as much. Naively I had assumed there would be some sort of download, an ownership of some sort imparted to the users. Not the case. Accessibility is still improved significantly by allowing on-demand viewing. The chat feature seems interesting, though I am not exactly sure who would prefer to watch the episode online in their browser at a latter date, rather than on TV or some viewing device. It’s moving somewhere but not as revolutionary as I thought. It’s not actually all that different than Comedy Central’s Motherload with additional user interaction. How many people use motherload in lieu of comedy central?

Will viewers of Lost watch online at abc.com instead of catching it on Wednesday nights? Will people wait for the Desperate Housewives DVD? I’ll check out the offering when it gets online, but for the moment, my hunch is that the latter options are still preferable

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