The Disney-ABC TV Group will stream Lost, Desperate Housewives, Commander in Chief and Alias for free online. Full-length recent episodes of Lost, Desperate and Commander, along with the entire current season of Alias, will be available at ABC.com as part of a two-month experiment.
In recent weeks, news has trickled out about Disney-ABC’s intention to stream free, ad-supported series episodes online. Executives have spoken of a project called My ABC, which was later confirmed by B&C to be the group’s internal name for the streaming project. The goal is to see whether viewers take to watching shows online. Disney-ABC has already been aggressive with the pay-to-download model, supplying episodes of many of its shows to iTunes, and the group wants to see whether other viewing models work as well or better.
Advertisers participating in the trial include AT&T, Cingular, Ford, Procter & Gamble, Toyota, Unilever’s Suave, Universal Pictures and Walt Disney Pictures. Viewers will get to watch the episodes for free but will have to pause for a few ads per episode, likely presented in unorthodox formats, such as advertiser-sponsored online games. Albert Cheng, executive VP of digital media for the Disney-ABC Television Group, tells B&C the challenge is to put content out there while keeping it close.
“When you get to a world where digital media's gatekeepers have gone away and consumers can access content any which way they want,” he says, “branding becomes all the more important.”
In a statement, Anne Sweeney, co-Chair, Disney Media Networks said, "In the future, consumers will rely more and more on strong brands to help them navigate the digital world, and we have some of the strongest brands in entertainment. Our digital media efforts will help us strengthen our connection with our consumers. Stay tuned, because this is just the beginning."