ABC Spells VOD

2/29/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

David Preschlack says the demand is there for Disney-ABC Television Group's expanded video-on-demand gambit among distributors.

According to Preschlack, executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing for Disney and ESPN, last Monday's announcement that Disney-ABC plans to make ad-supported offerings of its series and sports fare available to cable, satellite and telco distributors' on-demand platforms has “spurred a lot of interest. We received a lot of phone calls and have had many conversations that have been very positive.”

The gambit follows a test that began in Cox Communications' Orange County, Calif., cluster last fall, which included ad-supported presentations of Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty, plus ESPN on ABC college football games. Viewers can't fast-forward through the commercials.

Studies conducted by Knowledge Networks/Statistical Research during that trial period found that 93% of viewers were okay with ad-supported VOD fare, because they gained free access to top shows.

Officials at Cox said the operator plans to roll the on-demand program, which was accessible via the MyNetwork On Demand banner on Cox's Free Zone platform in Orange County, to other markets.

Cox spokesman David Grabert said the operator “felt the trial was a success,” but he declined to specify what system might be next or set a time frame for when the launches would occur.

While Preschlack would not handicap when deals would be consummated with other distributors, he noted that conversations had occurred with Time Warner Cable, whose Start Over application also includes a mechanism that prohibits viewers from zapping through commercials.

Preschlack said Disney-ABC would be working toward adjusting its programming availabilities, which now include new episodes of Lost and October Road, as well as college hoops.

“There will be various cycles of shows, including new series in the summer,” he said. “This is an ongoing opportunity.”

He noted that in addition to presenting high-quality programming, carriers benefit from a promo spot within the on-demand fare. For their part, ABC affiliates also will receive some commercial time, with the bulk of the inventory managed by the network. Although the final number of spots has yet to be determined, the on-demand offerings are expected to include between five to ten 30-second spots an hour, well below the linear load.

Ray Cole, chairman, of the ABC Television Affiliates Association and president of Citadel Communications, which owns three stations linked to ABC, said the board has “endorsed this plan and recommends it to the affiliate membership.”

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