ABC Finds Web Expands Audience

What Everyone Is Talking About

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NEW YORK ( -- ABC, one of the first broadcast networks to make its prime-time hits available on iTunes for $1.99 per ad-free episode, began an experiment in June to see if consumers would be willing to watch those same shows on its website, with commercials from just one or two sponsors. Today, Reuters' Gina Keating reports that those web shows have been viewed more than 11 million times so far.
ABC found shows that it made available online did not cannibalize its traditional TV audience.
ABC found shows that it made available online did not cannibalize its traditional TV audience.

This news caught Watercooler's eye for several reasons, not the least of which was Disney Media Network Co-Chair Anne Sweeney's assertion that the web episodes did not detract from ABC's traditional TV audience for shows such as "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives." "This technology has proved to be additive to linear television," she told Reuters.

Just last week, CondeNet President Sarah Chubb told attendees at a MediaVest print symposium that her company has found that web content expanded the audience for its print magazines, specifically referring to consumer reaction to Self magazine's diet and fitness challenge. We smell the beginnings of a trend here.

What's more, 87% of consumers who answered an online exit poll recalled the advertisers who supported the shows. Watercooler has long had a feeling that advertisers who make it clear that they are the reason consumers can consume free entertainment will build a stronger relationship with their audience than those who continue to interrupt that entertainment.

ABC will end the experiment June 30 to evaluate the results and determine the best way to offer web shows in the future. As part of that evaluation, the network will decide how to set ad rates that reflect the value of the online audience. Let's hope they also factor in a way to make the connection that the marketers are footing the bill for the content, so consumers extend warm and fuzzy feelings to those brands.
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