05.21.2007 10:00 AM
ABC to stream HD programs on the Internet

ABC will stream TV shows in HD from its Web site, ABC.com, beginning this summer. The project will begin with a beta test in July and expand to broad use with the start of the new television season in September.

The beta will include “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty.” ABC will include a more robust lineup of shows in the fall when the new TV season begins.

The network said its online programs would be available in HD at 1280 x 720, though it did not specify the bit rate of the streams. The network already offers full-length, streaming episodes of the same shows online, but in SD with a maximum resolution of 800 x 600.

Additionally this fall, ABC.com’s geography-targeted HD Web player will be expanded to include national news and local content with the capability to be sponsored by local advertisers.

To date, the network said ABC affiliates covering 80 percent of the country — including all major affiliate groups and the 10 ABC owned stations — have launched or have committed to launching the player on their own Web sites and are taking advantage of the opportunity to incorporate local advertising into the programming.

Ars Technica, a technology news Web site, reported that the network’s decision to stream HD content from its Web site could present a new set of bandwidth issues — not to ABC, but to its online viewers. According to the site, recent data has shown that the use of media-heavy services, such as the iTunes Store and Xbox Live, has caused network traffic to surge as the services become more and more popular.

Some broadband providers have cracked down on customers for using too much bandwidth even if the providers have not stated a specific limit. ABC is not the only TV network to experiment with streaming HD content, which raises the question of whether broadband providers will be able to keep up with thousands of users seeking the increased bandwidth that HD requires.

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