Disney to make Webcasts of shows permanent in Fall

The Walt Disney Co. (DIS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) is making ad-supported Webcasts of its ABC prime-time TV shows permanently available this fall, following a successful two-month test that drew a younger, more educated audience, a Disney official said on Friday.

Disney offered the prime-time ABC television series "Desperate Housewives," "Commander in Chief," "Lost" and "Alias" on its abc.com Web site in May and June to test whether consumers would watch ads online if the shows were free.

Albert Cheng, executive vice president of digital media for Disney-ABC Television Group, said a retooled version of the free broadband player will be launched in the Fall.

Cheng said Disney would announce later which shows will be available on the free site. Episodes likely will be available for a limited time, and shows may rotate on the site, Cheng said.


The shows were viewed 16 million times during the trial by consumers and 87 percent of viewers remembered the advertiser who sponsored the episode they had watched.

That compares with typical ad recall of about 40 percent for commercials viewed on television, industry sources said.

Disney said a survey showed that more than 50 percent gave positive ratings to the advertising experience, which required them to click through interactive ads to watch the shows.

The average age of the online audience for the ABC shows was 29, almost evenly split between men and women and more than half were college educated, the survey showed.

Most Web viewers tuned in from home and watched episodes on their desktop computers within 24 hours after they aired on television. The top reason given for viewing online was because users had missed the episode on TV, Disney said.

The ABC.com pilot program in one month outperformed the results Disney had seen during its nine-month partnership with Apple Computer Inc.'s (AAPL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) iTunes to offer episodes of its hit TV shows for download, without commercials, for $1.99 each.

Between last October and June, Disney sold more than 6 million downloads of shows on Apple's iTunes Web site.


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