Programming

ABC O&Os Launch Digital Network

Stations look to 'Live Well' on subchannels 4/27/2009 01:00:00 AM Eastern

ABC's 10 owned stations will launch a new digital channel, Live Well HD Network, April 27 with three hours of daily original programming produced primarily by the stations themselves. The network is ad-supported; stations represent major markets such as New York and Los Angeles.

The female-targeted, hi-def network focuses on home, health and lifestyle. It will launch with six half-hour programs, including the design show Home With Lisa Quinn, the cooking program Let's Dish and the outdoor-themed Motion. Live Well is run by WLS Chicago President/General Manager Emily Barr and the O&Os' Digital Media Executive VP Bill Burton.

Live Well will co-exist alongside digital channels such as Accuweather at the ABC stations, and will stream on LiveWellHD.com. Barr and Burton say the project was almost two years in the making.

“We always thought an additional channel posed great opportunity,” Barr says. “We thought we'd create a channel that doesn't look particularly local, but has appeal to broadcast viewers.”

ABC wants other stations to Live Well as well; the group is in talks with multiple station groups about bringing the channel to rival digital tiers.

The launch comes at a time when stations are figuring out how best to attract eyeballs and extract revenue from their digital channels, whether through weather, classic movies or local news.

NBC O&O WNBC New York, for one, launched New York Nonstop March 9, focusing on New York's hot spots and outsize personalities, with a newscast at 7 p.m.

Five stations, including KGO San Francisco, WLS Chicago and KABC Los Angeles, are contributing shows to Live Well, with a sixth produced by an outside outfit. The shows are created with broad appeal that's not geographically specific—a unique move at a time when being “hyper-local” is a major station buzzword. The three-hour block will air in a wheel format five times a day (four times on weekends), with stations filling in the remaining air with their own programming.

Barr and Burton say they expect Live Well's programming output to increase as more owned stations contribute. “We envision it more along the lines of six to eight hours a day,” Barr says.

Advertiser response has been favorable, say the principals, with General Mills and AT&T on board at launch. Product placement is also part of the revenue plan.

According to Burton, the lifestyle fare, paired with the stations' typically strong news product on the main channels, gives advertisers options to market their products. “There's only so much we can do with advertisers in our traditional news,” he says.

While creating new shows may be burdensome for the already maxed-out stations, the Live Well managers say there was no doubt the channel was to feature fresh content. As Burton puts it: “We really wanted to embrace this new opportunity with new and original programming.”

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