ABC’s Sweeney: Success = free, ad-supported TV episodes via the Web

I’ve written previously about ABC’s success providing current, popular TV shows on the web had been a success, saying that 50 million TV episodes requested by web viewers since September, and that “free, ad-supported shows are attracting a younger audience that’s more comfortable watching shows on a computer screen than their parents might have been.”

Once again, my new, favourite exec in Hollywood (with exception to my friends from ReplayTV, Kim, Rob and Craig amoung others), Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks, is touting the Web success that advertisers and local affiliates are seeing with free rebroadcasts of popular TV shows.

Reuters reports today that Sweeney “told an investor conference that Disney’s ABC Television Network’s ad-supported broadband player, which allows viewers to watch episodes of prime time shows on the Internet, sold out its advertising space for the fourth quarter of last year and the first quarter of this one.”

CEO Robert Iger said that his company thinks that “it is increasing the pie of media consumption” rather than cutting into TV ratings or DVD sales.

No kidding.

I think the same premise with TV shows via the web will parallel the success of music subscription services, as I noted a year ago:

“I would venture to guess that we will see a significant increase when the analysts run the numbers this March, with significant increases: I’ll go out on a limb and estimate that we’ll see a 25% increase YOY (a significant rise over the previous YOY period) of music stored on computers. And that the next billion tunes will chalk up at a faster pace than the first billion… but iTunes may have to play the game of “follow the leader” and offer subscription services of their own in order to get there.”  

Providing “free” (or in the case of music, monthly subscriptions which allows me a buffet approach to listening) is a great way to expose me to shows I would not normally watch. Making episodes free on the web may also entice viewers to watch on the big (TV) screen and as such see the supporting advertising. Not that I’ll be tuning into Ugly Betty any time soon, but I may tune into past episodes of something else.

Back in my days at ReplayTV oh, so many years ago, one of the primary benefits of the DVR was the opportunity to provide more targeted advertising, given you know a) where a DVR resides (by zip code and area code, as privacy polices allow), b) an idea (if you log) of the shows the viewer records and watches, and c) what ads they skip or watch. Networks and their affiliates are again realizing the potential of a more mass-market vehicle — in this case, the web — to benefit from and incorporate local advertising into the TV programming now available via Web viewing.

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