US TV network ABC is to put its biggest TV shows online. Blockbuster hits Desperate Housewives, Lost, Commander in Chief and Alias will be available free to view for a two-month period beginning May, at www.abc.com.
The network claims the move is a business model experiment. However the network clearly has a hunger for internet delivery, it was one of the first to make its shows available for download via the US iTunes, and can see huge new revenue opportunities.
The programmes will be available to watch one day after their US broadcast date. Viewers will be able to skip around the episodes via a chaptering mechanism but significantly they won’t be able to fast-forward through the ad breaks. Ten high-profile advertisers have already bought into the concept, and this trickle is likely to turn into a flood. Broadcasters in the UK will be amongst the audience of millions watching intently. Welcome to the beginning of the end of primetime.
Update: Since it broke, this story has attracted much mainstream media interest, but most news reports have incorrectly claimed that these shows will be free downloads. This is not the case. Episodes will be encoded in Flash 8 and will be streamed online, albeit in their original 16:9 aspect ratios. You can watch, but you can’t have.