ABC to shake up traditional TV distribution models

The ABC television network has revealed that it will soon begin offering many of its top shows on the Internet for free downloads.

The news came last week from Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger during the Bear Stearns Annual Media Investor Conference in Palm Beach, FL. Iger revealed few details about the upcoming Web-based service, to be called MyABC, but did say the network would sell new advertising for the service rather than re-purpose broadcast spots.

The ABC initiative would go beyond any previous alternative distribution effort by allowing, for the first time, regular Web-based downloads of premium network television programming. Iger made it clear that maintaining current business relationships, including presumably those with its affiliates, isn’t at the top of his agenda. “You have to be willing to put traditional business models and relationships aside in order to reach consumers,” he said. “We will no longer be slave to the old business models because consumers just don’t care about them.”

ABC became a pioneer in alternative program distribution last October when it signed up as the first television network to sell it programs for $1.99 over Apple Computer’s iTunes.

Iger told the conference audience that Disney has sold more than 3 million downloads through iTunes, which is estimated to be about $6 million in gross revenue (of which ABC is believed to get about $4.2 million).

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