June 12, 2003 1:18 PM PDT

Disney to 'push' ABC over the Net

Walt Disney's ABC.com is set to begin testing a new Internet application that downloads television clips to people's desktops daily, a move that takes a page from sister site ESPN.com.

The TV network Web site, a veritable commercial for ABC shows such as "NYPD Blue," will let 10,000 people download the TV viewer application starting Tuesday, said Harry Lin, vice president of content for ABC.com.

The technology, which mirrors that built by ABC.com's parent unit Walt Disney Internet Group for ESPN, will funnel preview clips and behind-the-scenes footage of programs several times daily to the computers of testers. If all goes well, ABC.com hopes to widely launch the application, for free, to the public in July, Lin said.

"We want people to watch and watch and watch," he said. "It's the old TV model: We attract so many people and then sell advertising against that audience."

So far, it's working wonders for ESPN. In February, the sports channel made the debute of "ESPN Motion," a free downloadable Web viewer for daily sports highlights and video commentary that comes with embedded commercials. Already 1.6 million people have installed it, and about half of that audience watches daily, according to ESPN spokeswoman Ashley Swadell.

The ESPN viewer is doing so well that the channel has started selling it regularly to its TV advertisers, in what's known as "TV upfronts." Brand names such as Gatorade and Lexus have signed on. ESPN charges up to $25 per thousand people who see its Web commercials.

ABC.com's move is indicative of a wider trend among Internet entertainment and news publishers. Sites, including the official home page of "Entertainment Tonight" and Businessweek.com, have introduced desktop software to "push" their content at visitors in new ways and drive loyalty for their sites and programming. In another example, Forbes.com on Thursday launched a downloadable Web viewer called "Executive Connection" that comes complete with personalized news and that is free to members.

The ABC.com application and ESPN Motion were both developed by Walt Disney Internet Group. Disney-owned Movies.com also started testing a similar application for its audiences several weeks back. Lin said that Disney plans to eventually propagate the Web viewer among all of its Net properties.

Similar in use to other technologies, the application makes it economical for a company to stream video and data to a subscriber's desktop during off-peak hours. Video and other data is streamed in bits, downloaded, then played automotically whenever the application is opened. The data is replaced when the content is refreshed.

ABC.com plans to download previews of shows or archives of "best of" material, such as "Alias" star Jennifer Garner in a red slip, Lin said. It will upload content several times a day, he said.

Lin said that the viewer service is an ideal application for the ABC site because people want to know beforehand what's going to happen on their favorite shows. The site attracts about 5 million people a month.

"We're a TV Web site; people want to see TV," he said. "There's just an affinity for that among our visitors."

 

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