As ABC Tests Online-Viewing Waters, Research Quantifies Audience

One in Four Viewers Interested in Watching Full-Length Episodes Online

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If you build it, will they come? And just how many will show up? These are the biggest questions plaguing media companies moving into the digital space. And with ABC.com set to unveil its two-month test of streaming content online, which will include episodes of hits such as "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," research firms are jumping in to quantify the audience for these offerings.

ABC.com's two-month streaming trial, which starts May 1 and continues through June, includes 'Desperate Housewives,' 'Lost,' 'Alias' and 'Commander in Chief,' supported by ads that can't be skipped. Marketers include Procter & Gamble Co., Ford Motor Co., Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, AT&T, Cingular, Toyota and Unilever's Suave.
ABC.com's two-month streaming trial, which starts May 1 and continues through June, includes 'Desperate Housewives,' 'Lost,' 'Alias' and 'Commander in Chief,' supported by ads that can't be skipped. Marketers include Procter & Gamble Co., Ford Motor Co., Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, AT&T, Cingular, Toyota and Unilever's Suave.

Solid base of interest
One of the most recent studies, from entertainment-marketing-research firm Advanced Marketing Perspectives, found that at least one in four TV viewers are interested in watching full-length versions of their favorite TV programs online, and that number is higher for younger viewers. The study comes on the heels of an Online Publishers Association study, conducted by Frank Magid Associates, which found a solid base of interest for online video -- at least one in four people are already watching on at least a weekly basis, and 40% interact with the video or the links surrounding it.

The AMP study took a slightly different slant from the OPA's general online-video snapshot, asking specifically about whether TV viewers would be interested in their favorite shows online. Not surprisingly, the younger demos were more interested. Thirty-four percent of 12- to 29-year-olds indicated definite or probable interest, while interest dipped to 25% for those aged 30 to 64.

When AMP stipulated that commercials couldn't be skipped, interest within the younger demo dropped to 22%; the older demo's interest fell to 15%. The older demo, at 17%, was slightly more interested in paying for ad-free viewing. The younger demo's interest in paying for an ad-free environment hovered around 20%.

Can't skip ABC ads
ABC.com's two-month streaming trial, which starts May 1 and continues through June, also includes shows "Alias" and "Commander in Chief," and the content will be supported by ads that can't be skipped. Marketers sponsoring the programs: Procter & Gamble Co., Ford Motor Co., Universal Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures, AT&T, Cingular, Toyota and Unilever's Suave.

"ABC's announcement meant another door is opening for people to access content," said Angela Paura, who founded AMP in August after serving as chief operating officer for Nielsen Entertainment's NRG. "In a way pundits have hypothesized about this for a long time and now it's coming."

"We know 10% to 12% of people have already downloaded content other than short clips to their computers," she said. "Now we're asking them specifically about their favorite TV shows. But it's not like it's foreign territory. Younger viewers have more positive interest."

That finding jibes with the earlier OPA study, which found the heaviest online-video consumers tend to be young, male and affluent. They tend to browse multiple Web sites, and 48% discover videos while randomly surfing online, meaning there is opportunity to drive traffic to video sites with the right search optimization and marketing. And despite much of the talk about employees surfing on company time, most respondents claimed the bulk of their viewing is done at home. Turns out you can't get away from prime time.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to AMP as American Media Perspectives and incorrectly reported when the company was founded.
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