ABC News Now Goes Off Air, Might Return

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New York— Reevaluating its future digital-cable prospects, The Walt Disney Co. last week switched off diginet ABC News Now — at least for the short term.

Disney bowed the digital channel in July to 6.5 million Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable and Adelphia Communications Corp. digital subscribers, through each MSO’s respective retransmission consent deals with the ABC owned-and-operated TV stations.

The “experiment” was supposed to end last November, but after positive viewer feedback, ABC decided to keep it running beyond the 2004 Presidential elections.

The service, which launched with exclusive news coverage from ABC News anchor Peter Jennings and segments from news magazines Primetime Live and 20/20, will continue to operate as a broadband and wireless platform.

“With the [presidential] inauguration last week, it seemed like the time was right to conclude this trial phase and consider what our next steps are,” said ABC News spokeswoman Julie Summersgill. “We’re taking a half-step back to see what worked, what we think we can improve on and what our next steps are.”

Officials at Time Warner Cable and Comcast said it’s up to ABC to determine what replaces its digital news channel on their systems.

Summersgill said Disney has no timetable as to when the service could return to TV. Looking ahead, the network would consider adding more regularly scheduled programming to complement its breaking-news coverage. The network had recently added several health, talk/gossip, and entertainment-related programs to its lineup.

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