Online shows work for ABC


ABC made headlines in May when it became the first network to offer its top prime-time series free online after they aired.

The results of that self-described "experiment" are in, with the network claiming that millions of young, affluent and highly educated consumers gave high marks to online viewing -- even with ads embedded in the shows. As a result, ABC will again offer episodes of its prime-time series free online this fall, though the network has declined to identify the shows.

Among the findings:

During May and June, received 5.7 million requests to see episodes of Desperate Housewives, Lost, Alias and Commander in Chief.

The average viewer was 29 years old, and more than half were college graduates. Viewers were almost evenly split between women (53 percent) and men (47 percent).

The bulk of online viewing took place within the first 24 hours after the series aired. It was most often done at home using a desktop computer.

Based on survey research done for ABC, 79 percent of users said they had a positive online viewing experience, and 87 percent said they were likely to recommend the site to others.

"The research we gathered from this trial has been invaluable as we move forward with the next phase of the broadband player," said Albert Cheng, executive vice president for digital media, in a statement. "We have been extremely pleased with the consumer feedback from the trial and are busy working on some minor adjustments to the broadband player in order to again make full episodes available to consumers this fall."

Advertisers included some of the largest on television: AT&T, Cingular, Johnson & Johnson, Toyota and Procter & Gamble.

David Zurawik

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