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Disney calls Net TV effort a success

Experiment shows that millions will happily watch shows like "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" on PC screens.

ASPEN, Colo.--A Walt Disney Co. executive on Monday said the company's experiment with delivering TV shows over the Internet has been a success and it will continue this fall.

Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, said the free, ad-supported shows are attracting a younger audience that's more comfortable watching shows on a computer screen than their parents might have been.

Anne Sweeney
Anne Sweeney,
Disney TV president

"Last year we were using the Disney Channel Web site as a marketing tool," Sweeney said at the Progress and Freedom Foundation's technology policy conference here. "Today we're using it as a programming tool."

Sweeney said since Disney Channel shows began appearing on, there have been 37 million downloads, an average of 1 million visitors a day, and 1.5 billion page views for the time period of June 2 to August 3.

In addition, ABC has experimented with placing episodes of "Lost," "Desperate Housewives," "Alias" and "Commander-in-Chief" on the Internet for free as part of a two-month trial. That garnered 5.6 million downloads during that period, Sweeney said, and 87 percent of the viewers remembered the advertisements they saw (one episode, for instance, was sponsored by Oil of Olay, and all have only one advertiser per episode).

"The platforms didn't cannibalize the television exposure of our series," Sweeney said. "We weren't cannibalizing our iTunes offering." She said ABC will continue to offer free, ad-supported TV shows with a revamped media player this fall.

ABC was one of the earlier networks to offer its shows for download for $1.99 through Apple Computer's iTunes store. The store now offers more than 150 TV shows from networks including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and MTV.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs' visit to Disney-ABC's offices in Burbank, Calif., helped to seal the original iTunes deal last fall, Sweeney said. "He came down to Burbank with the video iPod, with the beta version of the iTunes store," she said. "He sat with us, and we looked at our programming on the video iPod. We saw how easy and intuitive it was for people to go into our store and purchase our content."