ABC: Millenials and Mobile Key for New Media

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“Millenials” and mobile TV are the two big focuses for ABC’s new-media efforts Bernie Gershon, senior VP/general manager of digital media for Disney ABC Television Group, said during an entertaining keynote speech Wednesday at the Streaming Media East conference in New York.

ABC’s broadband efforts--which include selling $1.99 shows through iTunes, streaming ad-supported programs on ABC.com, and the $4.95-per-month subscription service ABC News Now—are aimed squarely at millenials, the 79 million Americans between the age of 8 and 27. The key trait of millenials, says Gershon, is their ability to multitask and to “consume information on a variety of devices,” which informs all of ABC’s new-media efforts.

“Our strategy is aligned with the demands of the new consumer,” said Gershon, who noted that his pet project, ABC News Now, counts 25 million broadband homes and 2 million mobile users as subscribers.

So far, ABC has sold 5 million program downloads through iTunes since October, and ABC.com has recorded some 2 million video plays during the first two weeks of the service. The use of the ABC.com streaming product is not just limited to people at work, as ABC is recording significant usage during the evening hours as well.

The next big new-media opportunity for ABC content is mobile phones, which ABC is already addressing with both ABC News Now and a new mobile video program, “Lost Diaries,” that will be introduced this fall.

“Mobile phones are an enticing and compelling platform for us because of the sheer scope of the reach,” says Gershon.

While there are over 100 million TV households in the U.S., there are over 180 million mobile phone users, notes Gershon, and 400 million mobile users in China. He added that, as of March 2006, there were 2 million mobile video subscribers in the U.S., up from zero in 2003. That includes ABC partner MobiTV, which just broke 1 million subs paying $9.95 a month. Gershon says that the average viewing time of ABC News Now content on MobiTV is three to five minutes per session.

When asked about the future role of ABC affiliates in ABC’s new-media future, Gershon said that affiliates are important and that “long term, we hope to find a way to work with them.” He noted that four ABC affiliates and one owned station are currently testing the abc.com streaming service, and reiterated his message that delivery on multiple platforms creates a "virtuous circle" with ABC content at the center. In the long run, he believes that new-media efforts will help both the network and affiliates make more money.

“We believe it’s additive,” he said.

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