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ABC To Offer Hit Shows Online—For Free

Starting in May, ABC will present free, on-demand streams of some of the network's most popular shows. The streams, which will be available the day after the shows appear on broadcast TV, will feature ads that cannot be skipped by viewers.

In a press release Monday, the Disney-ABC Television Group called the planned offering a "two-month-long experiment."Offerings will include the latest episodes of Desperate Housewives, which landed 5th in the Nielsen ratings in the most recently announced ratings period, as well as Lost and Commander in Chief. The network already offers those shows as commercial-free, $1.99-per-episode downloads on Apple's iTunes, where Lost has consistently been a top seller. The entire season of Alias also will be available.

Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, made the announcement during a panel Monday at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's annual trade show in Atlanta. "It's an opportunity for us to learn more about a different model," she said, according to the Associated Press. "None of us can live in a world of just one business model. This is about the consumer, and how consumers use all the new technology. It's consumer first, business model second."

Streams will be encoded and offered in Flash 8 for both PC and Mac, and will be offered in two resolution and bit-rate combinations: 500x282/400Kbps and 700x394/700Kbps.ABC offered ten advertisers the chance to test in-stream broadband advertising models and purchase show sponsorships. Advertisers already on board include AT&T, Cingular, Ford, Procter & Gamble, and Toyota, and Universal Pictures, as well as Walt Disney Pictures, which is owned by the same parent company that owns ABC.

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