ABCNews.com Broadens Real Reach

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After a two-month test, ABCNews.com will expand its 24-hour live streaming video news subscription service, and has signed a distribution pact with Real Networks Inc. to broaden its broadband reach.

Under the deal, terms of which were not disclosed, ABC News Live will be offered exclusively through Real Networks' SuperPass premium pay-content service. The agreement marks an extension of the content relationship between ABC News and Real.

When the streaming-media proponent launched the SuperPass premium subscription service in 2001, it included exclusive ABC News content, including video from World News Tonight With Peter Jennings
and Nightline.

SuperPass subscribers won't have to pay extra for the addition of ABC News Live
content. ABCNews.com also will continue to offer the live video news through its ABC News On Demand service at its portal for $4.95 per month or $39.95 a year.

Workplace target

The live service's prime target group is those who use broadband at work, looking for instant updates on world and national events. ABCNews.com peak usage comes during the day: Traffic spikes at about 9 a.m., when users arrive for work, and then rises again between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to Bernie Gershon, senior vice president and general manager of the site.

"For us, the middle of the day is primetime for our broadband audience," he said.

Corporate access aside, others in the work place can access the content using personal accounts from their home service.

Aiming for workplace broadband users would seem a prudent play, given there are now some 50 million people with access to a corporate high-speed connection, according to Nielsen NetRatings Inc.

But there are impediments: Employers don't want to see such non-work-related traffic running across their networks. In fact, many corporations have installed software filters aimed at blocking out entertainment content.

Gershon counters that in many companies, staying up to date on the latest events and trends ultimately makes it worth the investment in bandwidth.

"Ultimately, it is news and it is important to people in the workday," he said. "If companies want to crack down, they can take solitaire off their systems first."

Expanded coverage

When ABC's online unit started the live video news service in March, it initially focused on breaking news. But now, coverage has been expanded to a wider range of news content, including hourly news briefs with anchor and correspondent Alina Cho and high-profile news interviews repackaged for the Web.

They include a replay of Barbara Walters's interview with U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), the former first lady. The piece, which aired on 20/20
Monday June 9, was made available online at 11 a.m. the next day.

"The goal initially was to be primarily a C-SPAN on the Net," Gershon said. "Now the goal is to move toward a total news package."

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