ABC Online TV Offer Raises Technology Doubts

13 April 2006

ABC's decision to stream top TV shows online and for free has created yet more ripples on an already choppy pond.

The Walt Disney Company-owned US network announced earlier this week its intention to test advertising-supported primetime hits on the web.

The two month trial will post shows, including Lost and Desperate Housewives, on the internet the day after they air on TV. The programs will be backed by commercials and interactive ads from Procter & Gamble and Toyota among others.

Potentially ABC's move represents a surefire way to deliver ads as the company can determine the rate at which the video stream is delivered. This prevents viewers from skipping through commercial breaks, as they can with a DVR.

But the technological demands in sending individual video streams across the network to each viewer are likely to prove beyond the scope of existing infrastructures, experts say.

Comments Tom McInerney, co-founder of online video site "Initially, people are willing to put up with the degraded experience. But expectations will rise quickly."

Potential hardware hiccups aside, other interested parties are observing with cautious interest.

Says Matt Bond, evp at cable giant Comcast: "Certain content traditionally in TV has been free, other has been paid. And to the extent that this is a new business model, where content is going to move out of the pay category to the free category, I think it's something to watch."

Data sourced from Financial Times Online and; additional content by WARC staff