ABC Sees Wisdom In Syndication: First Deal Up With AOL
Until recently, ABC.com was the only destination where consumers could find the shows like "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Ugly Betty." ABC's goal was to guarantee a quality viewing experience, and control its relationships with affiliates and advertisers.
Like rival networks, however, ABC is now embracing the theory that a more open distribution policy equals greater viewership.
"This deal not only provides additional viewing opportunities for our consumers, but also gives our affiliates and advertisers another way to reach our audience and associate with our powerful network brands," said Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney-ABC Television Group.
Awaking to the power of online syndication, CBS recently established a broad Internet distribution platform for its programming through deals with AOL, Joost, Comcast, MSN, and Brightcove, among other partners. Also, in June, NBC partnered with widget maker Clearspring Technologies to increase the spread of its content throughout the Web. NBCU's Hulu.com venture with News Corp. will syndicate content over sites reaching a reported 96% of all Internet visitors (including AOL).
Since ABC launched its broadband player last September, users have initiated more than 140 million episodes, and to date, ABC affiliates covering 80% of the country have launched or are committed to launch the players on their own Web sites.
These results seem to have left ABC's affiliates open to further experimentation in the digital universe.
"We believe this initiative with AOL offers tremendous potential for increased exposure and promotional opportunities for local stations," said Ray Cole, chairman of ABC Television Affiliates Association.
Not surrendering the viewing experience entirely, ABC shows on AOL will stream on the Peacock's own proprietary video player. The ABC.com broadband player on AOL will be co-branded with an "ABC.com on AOL" message alongside local ABC affiliates' station IDs, based on an individual user's geographic location.
Individual episodes viewed online will feature up to three interactive ads from one national sponsor, as well as an additional local ad insertion. ABC will continue to sell national advertising for the broadband player, and local affiliates will continue to be responsible for local ad sales.
News of the deal comes just weeks before the expected launch of Hulu.com--the joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp., which analysts have speculated could change the world of long-form digital content distribution. And while Hulu's architects have called for broad industry involvement, ABC has yet to join the bandwagon.
Along with existing series, AOL Video will carry ABC's entire new fall lineup, including "Cavemen," "Dirty Sexy Money," and "Pushing Daisies," among other shows.
In addition, the two companies plan to offer selected short-form programming from ABC via an embedded short-form player, which will debut on AOL later this year. The short-form programming featured on the embedded player will include both original and derivative content from ABC.