ABC Downloads New Media Plans, iTunes Just The Beginning

PASADENA, CALIF.--ABC, the network that did the first ground-breaking iTunes deal, believes that providing its consumers with access to its shows on an on-demand basis is not just a passing fancy.

"It's going to be a huge part of our future," said Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment.

To do the deal, ABC needed specific requirements to move into the space--and Apple Computer's iTunes Music Store met all of these, said McPherson. He said it provided the best consumer technology, was a complement to the ABC brand, and would provide meaningful revenues in the future.

"There is a lot of technology that is wagging the dog here," he said. "But I don't think you'll see people watching all 22 episodes of a season's show on an iPod."

The ABC executive talked about key areas of needed improvement--especially Monday Night, now that "Monday Night Football" has left the network.

McPherson says the key is getting the women 18-34 demographic. When that happens, the broader adult 18-49 viewers will follow. Some people are calling that night "Ladies Night" for ABC. ABC hasn't decided on specifics for the night, but "Wife Swap" could be part of it because of its recent strong ratings.

Concerning future development, ABC could be considering Fox's "Arrested Development"--a show Fox said it is highly unlikely to renew. "I love the show. I think I could find ways to market it. We have some spots on the schedule. But I think it's a long shot." He also added that ABC was working on "high-concept" shows in the "Lost," "Prison Break, and "24" vein.

McPherson is still considering Spanish-language Telenovelas programming for the ABC summer schedule--but he has yet to figure out how to do the shows financially. "Univision pays some $35,000," he said. "We were talking last night about it. That's what we spend on craft services."

Concerning ABC's existing lineup, "Commander in Chief"'s ratings have been trending down since its premiere. McPherson says there will be some changes creatively, as well as more marketing to lift awareness. He also told critics that he is not going to do anything special to counter-program NBC's Olympic broadcasts. "We are just going with our hit shows."

ABC is running a special episode of "Grey's Anatomy" after the Super Bowl broadcast. The show that follows the big game typically gets big ratings.

"We chose it because it's one of our best shows," he said. "It's an asset that is only going to grow."

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