ABC’s Cheng: Digital Revenue Beating Forecasts

Sep 12, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Albert Cheng, ABC’s digital media chief, said revenue from ABC.com and the company’s iTunes deal with Apple Computer is exceeding internal predictions.

“We’re a little overwhelmed” by iTunes sales, Cheng said during a conference Tuesday in New York sponsored by the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications. “It has gone better than we thought.”

ABC initiated a flood of digital-media deals and projects in the television industry last year when CEO Robert Iger and Apple CEO Steve Jobs agreed to sell episodes of shows including “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” on Apple’s download store. ABC.com offers show clips and last season offered entire episodes supported by commercials.

Revenue from ABC’s digital strategies still represents a small fraction of the sales generated by Disney’s other TV businesses, said Mr. Cheng, executive VP of digital media for the ABC Television Group. He didn’t specify the margin by which the group’s digital sales have exceeded forecasts or the percentage of ABC revenue that digital sales represent.

Apple on Tuesday announced more video iTunes initiatives, including movie downloads and iTV, a device that will let consumers transfer shows and films from their computers directly to their television sets.

Responding to a question about how revenue from ABC’s digital ventures has compared with company forecasts, Cheng said, “We’re pleased with how iTunes has done.”

Regarding ABC.com, where fans can watch shows supported by advertising, he said, “We’re above budget on the dot-com compared with our predictions.”

The network put episodes of four series, including “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” on ABC.com as a test in May and June. The episodes were available for free, with limited commercial interruption. ABC.com had received 5.7 million episode requests and served 16 million video streams by August, during a test period when free episodes were offered, the company said last month.