- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 28, 2008

ABC hits now on VOD

ABC said Monday it will release hit shows like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” for free over video-on-demand cable services, with the hitch that viewers will have to sit through commercials without being able to fast-forward.

According to Associated Press, the Walt Disney Co., parent company of the network, is aiming to profit from ads sold for the video-on-demand offerings while expanding its digital strategy beyond programs distributed on its Web site, abc.com.

The announcement follows an agreement between ABC and its more than 200 affiliate stations around the country.

Affiliates had in the past limited the amount of content ABC could redistribute in nontraditional ways because of their concern about the ratings impact on stations. But the video-on-demand deal offers them a financial incentive to participate.

Under the deal, local affiliates will be able to sell one 30-second ad on the content, while ABC will sell from four to nine other commercials to national advertisers. That amounts to two to five minutes of commercials for an hourlong program, compared with 17 minutes or more for a show on regular TV, Disney spokeswoman Karen Hobson said.

The agreement initially involves cable provider Cox Communications Inc., which has about 6 million subscribers, of which 3.1 million have digital set-top boxes that allow them to access video-on-demand services.

The deal follows a months-long trial for Cox subscribers in Orange County Calif. Some 93 percent of the users found the ads acceptable in exchange for the free service, the companies said.

It’s not the first time for a network to redistribute its shows for free over a cable company’s on-demand service.

CBS Corp. announced a deal with Comcast Corp. in November 2005 to offer previously aired shows on-demand. It even sold new ads for the content to corporate sponsors, such as automaker General Motors Corp. for old episodes of “CSI.”

NBC Universal, a joint venture of General Electric Co. and Vivendi Universal, cut a similar deal with Comcast in March 2006, selling some prime-time programs for 99 cents at midnight following their broadcast and offering others for free.

ABC signed an on-demand deal with Comcast in November 2006 but limited its deal to seven markets that were both served by Comcast and had stations that were owned and operated by the ABC network. Monday’s announcement would expand the on-demand offerings across the country.

Comcast, with 24.1 million subscribers, including 15.2 million who can access on-demand services, said its on-demand offerings have helped reduce its churn rate, or the percentage of customers who drop or downgrade service after purchasing it, AP said.

Tyra, Ashton team

If you think the teaming of Tyra Banks and Ashton Kutcher sounds like something out of a reality show, you’re not far off. The pair are joining forces to create an unscripted series for ABC, the Hollywood Reporter says.

The as-yet-untitled project will feature contestants competing in a beauty pageant. Naturally there’s a twist, but the network has requested that the concept remain under wraps because the show hasn’t started production.

ABC has ordered eight episodes.

On tap tonight

Terminal City (Sundance Channel, 9 p.m.) : This Canadian-produced series is a wonderfully human, often darkly funny drama about a wife and mother named Katie Simpson who finds a lump in her breast and, just as inadvertently, becomes host of a hospital-based TV reality show. Maria Del Mar stars as Katie, and Gil Bellows (“Ally McBeal”) is her husband, Ari.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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