NEW YORK: An on-demand video service that allows viewers to watch some of TV's most popular shows at times of their own choosing is at an advanced stage of development by Disney-ABC and cable operator Cox Communications.

There's just one disadvantage – if you're an ad-averse consumer. And a major benefit if you're a marketer or broadcaster.

You can't skip the commercials!

The system, announced Monday by ABC, has been piloted for several months in Cox-subscribing homes in Orange County, California.

Chortles Disney-ABC television group president Anne Sweeney: "This does counter the DVR. You don't need TiVo if you have fast-forward-disabled video on demand. It gives you the same opportunity to catch up to your favorite shows."

Equally enthused is Ray Cole, who chairs the board of affiliated ABC stations. Moreover, he doesn't mince his words as to the new service's purpose.

"As network and affiliates, we both have an interest in slowing down the explosive growth of DVRs. This is about combating DVRs. As we developed this at every stage, there was an agreement that however we put this together, disabling the fast-forward function was key."

Programs downloaded via the VOD service will feature non-fast-forwardable ads sold both by the network and local ABC stations, But there will be significantly fewer ad-spots per show than in the show's original broadcast version. 

Given that there is no specific mention of charging viewers for use of the service, it is likely to be free – although the associated hardware will almost certainly carry a price tag.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff