ABC has high hopes for regular Webcasts

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Executives are hoping ABC News' first regular live Webcast featuring Sam Donaldson will give the TV network a head start in the lucrative future of broadband communications.

They said the combination of Mr. Donaldson's stature and the 12:30 p.m. ET time slot, when viewers have access to corporate Net connections, could push broadband programming as a real information source and--more importantly--draw big ad dollars.

"It is clear the potential is enormous," said ABC News President David Westin, adding that using Mr. Donaldson to launch ABC's first live Web programming sends a message about the medium's importance.


ABC launched Sam Donaldson Live on Sept. 27 with a single advertiser, Fidelity Investments' new Powerstreet Online Trading site, as part of a deal that ABC News said was a "concept sale" and included one 30-second spot created by Gotham, New York. Fidelity is sponsoring the site the first month. As part of the Webcast, Mr. Donaldson reported news and interviewed Federal Communications Commission Chairman Bill Kennard and RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser. He also invited viewers to take a survey about the spelling of potato--results of which he reported later in the broadcast.

Steve Bornstein, chairman of Walt Disney Co.'s Buena Vista Internet Group, said ABC and Disney see Web sites as relying on a combination of revenue sources including advertising, but also in some instances subscriptions.

ABC News executives said the unusual choice of Mr. Donaldson to head their move into Net programming reflected his fame and a desire to get some attention.

"Part of the attraction is that this is a traditional old-media guy in a new medium," said Bernard Gershon, VP-general manager of "For him, it's an incredible opportunity to do something that has buzz."


Mr. Donaldson, who joked in his first broadcast about trying to get down to a 2-inch by 2-inch size, said he was "pumped" to be offered the opportunity but also realistic in his expectations.

He said the survey results during the initial broadcast had just 128 people participating. Hardly the millions he is used to reaching.

ABC isn't the only network taking its news programs online. MSNBC in mid-October will begin running daily interactive content on Microsoft Corp.'s WebTV set-top boxes tied to "NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw," "Dateline NBC" and "Today." Programming will include chats, in-depth reports and polls. MSNBC is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC.

Copyright October 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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