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Sweeney: Online Series Episodes Provide More Advertiser Involvement

Apr 10, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Appearing on a panel at The National Show in Atlanta, Disney-ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney discussed her company’s decision to offer several ABC prime-time shows for free online.

The Walt Disney Co. on Monday announced that episodes of “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Commander in Chief,” as well as the entire current season of “Alias,” will be made available for free via ABC.com. The episodes will be advertiser-sponsored and viewers will be unable to skip commercials. The move comes several months after the company broke new ground by putting ad-free versions of its series for sale on iTunes for $1.99 per episode.

“It’s an interesting lesson we learned from our iPod deal from a few months ago,” Ms. Sweeney said. “Every deal needs to refer back to our primary platform. … [This] enables us to bring our broadcast advertisers into the space. You can click on a 30-second message or 15-second message or go deeper into the advertiser’s Web site.”

Ms. Sweeney appeared with several cable leaders on the panel, who discussed regulation, distribution and technology issues. Their responses and concerns were familiar to past National Show audiences — bullish statements on voice over Internet protocol, yearning for subscribers to embrace product bundling, frustration with government regulators giving telephone companies what they called an “unfair” advantage in the space.

When the moderator asked about the ongoing slide of cable company stock prices, Time Warner Chairman and CEO Richard Parsons said the companies, at the end of the day, simply must start performing.

“Markets can deal with good news. They can deal with bad news. They can’t deal with uncertainty,” Mr. Parsons said. “We need to provide answers to investors that show how this is all going to turn out … [but] ultimately, investors are looking for performance and growth.”