Disney-ABC Television Group’s Emmy-Winning ABC.Com Brings Back Enhanced, Ad-Supported Broadband Player This Month

Dedicated to expanding its network and channel brands across multiple platforms and connecting viewers with their favorite shows anytime and anywhere, Disney-ABC Television Group announced today it will once again offer ad-supported, full-length episodes of several ABC primetime series online at www.ABC.com, beginning Saturday, September 23. ABC and its Affiliate Association have reached an arrangement which allows local affiliates to participate in the player through local advertising sales, branding opportunities and website links.

“Over the past year, we have taken deliberate steps to make our content more widely available in an effort to forge even deeper relationships with viewers,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks, and president, Disney-ABC Television Group. “A great example of this strategy in action is the ABC.com player. Its successful two-month test earlier this year has led to this relaunch, and now, together with our affiliates and advertisers, we are creating an opportunity to better position all of our businesses for the future.”

New episodes of returning series “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” as well as episodes of the new series “Six Degrees,” “Ugly Betty,” “The Knights of Prosperity” and “The Nine” will be offered free to consumers on ABC’s website the day after their broadcast premieres. Generally, four episodes per series will be available at any given time. When the player relaunches, half-hour promotional programs of “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” created to help viewers follow the ongoing stories in these series, will also be available.

Under the new arrangement, affiliates will be able to feature the broadband player on their own websites. Stations will have the opportunity to sell local advertisements for episodes and will retain all revenue associated to those specific sales, marking the first time that local ad insertion on a nationally operated broadband video player has been accomplished. The ABC affiliates will also be promoting the broadband player on-air and online.

“This new arrangement provides a mutually beneficial framework as the industry evolves, ” said John Rouse, senior vice president, affiliate relations, ABC Television Network. “It is further proof of the dedication the network and our affiliates have to working together in unique and inventive ways to create new opportunities that build all of our businesses.”

“Based on our successful streaming test with the network last spring, we think this initiative holds promise and potential opportunity for the ABC affiliates in their respective markets. The ABC Affiliate Board has endorsed the plan and recommends it to the affiliate membership,” said Ray Cole, chairman, ABC Affiliate Relations Board of Governors. “We hope this is just one of many new media initiatives between ABC and its affiliated stations.”

Combining sleek, modern design with user-friendly functionality, ABC.com’s broadband player will enable consumers to pause and move back and forth between “chapters” within each episode, but will once again not permit fast-forwarding through advertisements. Individual episodes viewed through ABC.com will feature up to three interactive advertisements from one national sponsor, as well as an additional local ad insertion. All content will be streamed in 16×9 formatting which offers a cinema-like feel to the viewing experience.

“We are dedicated to keeping our focus sharply on the consumer in all of our digital initiatives,” said Albert Cheng, executive vice president, Digital Media, Disney-ABC Television Group. “The intelligence we gained from the trial we conducted in May and June prompted subtle changes to the broadband player which provide greater ease of use for consumers, as well as establish us as the clear leader in this space, pushing technological innovation to support our business objectives with local ad insertion.” Discussions with national and local advertisers are currently being finalized in regard to their involvement with the project.

Recently honored with an Interactive Television Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement for Enhanced or Interactive Programming on New Delivery Platforms for its website’s two-month-long full episode streaming trial, ABC was the first broadcast network to make multiple series available for viewing online, free of charge to consumers. During this past May and June, ABC.com’s broadband player served over 5.7 million episode requests, totaling 16 million video streams. Based on survey research conducted for ABC by Frank N. Magid Associates during the trial, 79% of those surveyed had a positive online viewing experience and 87% responded that they were likely to recommend the site to others.

Shonda Rhimes is creator and executive producer of “Grey’s Anatomy.” Mark Gordon, Betsy Beers, Peter Horton and Krista Vernoff are executive producers. “Grey’s Anatomy” is a Touchstone Television Production. The series’ third season premieres Thursday, September 21, 9:00-10:01 p.m. (ET/PT) on ABC and will be available online at www.ABC.com, beginning the evening of Friday, September 22.

“Six Degrees” is executive-produced by J.J. Abrams, Stuart Zicherman, Raven Metzner, Carol Flint and Bryan Burk. Director/producer is Jace Alexander. A Touchstone Television Production, the series is shot on location in New York City. “Six Degrees” premieres Thursday, September 21, 10:01-11:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on ABC and will be available online at www.ABC.com, beginning Friday, September 22.

Marc Cherry is executive producer and creator of “Desperate Housewives.” The series is produced by Touchstone Television and is the winner of both the 2005 and 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy. The third season of “Desperate Housewives” premieres Sunday, September 24, 9:00-10:01 p.m. (ET/PT) on ABC and will be available online at www.ABC.com, beginning Monday, September 25.

Based on “Yo Soy Betty La Fea,” the groundbreaking Colombian telenovela that became an international phenomenon, “Ugly Betty” is from Touchstone Television. Academy Award nominee and Emmy Award winner Salma Hayek is executive producer, along with Silvio Horta, Ben Silverman, Jose Tamez, James Parriott and James Hayman. “Ugly Betty” premieres Thursday, September 28, 8:00-9:00 p.m., (ET/PT) on ABC and will be available online at www.ABC.com, beginning Friday, September 29.

“Lost” was created by Jeffrey Lieber and J.J. Abrams & Damon Lindelof. Abrams, Lindelof, Bryan Burk, Jack Bender and Carlton Cuse serve as executive producers. “Lost,” which is filmed entirely on location in Hawaii, is from Touchstone Television. The series’ third season premieres Wednesday, October 4, 9:00-10:01 p.m. (ET/PT) on ABC and will be available online at www.ABC.com, beginning Thursday, October 5.

“The Nine” was created by the brother-and-sister writing team of Hank Steinberg (“Without a Trace,” “61*”) and K.J. Steinberg (“Beautiful People,” “Judging Amy”). Hank Steinberg and Alex Graves (“The West Wing”), who directed the pilot, are executive producers and K.J. Steinberg is co-executive producer/writer. “The Nine” is from Sunset Road Productions in association with Warner Bros. Television. “The Nine” premieres Wednesday, October 4, 10:01-11:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on ABC and will be available online at www.ABC.com, beginning Thursday, October 5.

Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman, producers of “Late Show with David Letterman” and creators of “Ed,” are the co-creators and executive producers of “The Knights of Prosperity.” David Letterman, Mick Jagger — who will appear in a cameo — and Victoria Pearman are also executive producers. Merrill Karpf, Steve Tompkins and Eric Horsted are co-executive producers. “The Knights of Prosperity,” a single-camera comedy, is a production of Touchstone Television. The series premieres Tuesday, October 17, 9:00-9:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on ABC and will be available online at www.ABC.com, beginning Wednesday, October 18.

This announcement is part of the Disney-ABC Television Group’s overall Digital Media multiplatform business initiative and demonstrates the Group’s ongoing commitment to launching new digital products and working with strategic partners in the digital media space to make its high-quality, informative and entertaining content available to consumers whenever and wherever they choose.

Disney-ABC Television Group is home to all of The Walt Disney Company’s worldwide entertainment and news television properties. The Group includes the ABC Television Network, Disney Channel’s worldwide portfolio of kids’ channels, ABC Family and SOAPnet; as well as television production and syndication divisions Touchstone Television, Walt Disney Television Animation, Buena Vista Worldwide Television and Walt Disney Television International. Disney-ABC Television Group also manages the Radio Disney Network in addition to the Company’s equity interest in Lifetime Entertainment Services, A&E Television Networks and E! Networks.