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ABC reveals soap opera secrets online

ABC.com begins streaming sneak peeks of its soap opera "Port Charles," giving fans a glimpse into the show's bizarre love triangles the day before each episode airs.

ABC.com on Monday began streaming sneak peeks of its soap opera "Port Charles," giving fans a glimpse into the show's bizarre love triangles the day before each episode airs.

At ABC.com's "Port Charles" Web page, fans can watch a 30-second streaming video of the show. The site also holds features such as recaps of missed episodes, character biographies, a photo gallery, games and polls.

"With the major networks, what they're finding is the Web is a supplementary medium for them, and convergence is a reality now, and it will be very much so moving forth," said Jarvis Mak, an Internet analyst at NetRatings.

The streamed soap preview comes as TV studios are beefing up program Web sites with bigger budgets to fund bells and whistles such as multimedia and interactive features.

ABC.com's "Port Charles" effort is not the first time the network has used Web tie-ins to beef up a show. Its "The Drew Carey Show" and smash game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" which lets viewers play along at home, have also used the Internet to reach out to their audiences.

This past summer, CBS' "Survivor" show hit prime time on the Web. The program about 16 castaways on a secluded island drew an average of 51.7 million viewers for the final episode, according to the Viacom-owned TV network. Traffic to the "Survivor" Web site jumped 115 percent the night of the final episode from the previous day, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Analysts said previews such as movie trailers have been highly successful online, and consumers can expect to see more as networks and movie studios continue down the digital road.

Although the sneak-peek video clips will let fans see what will happen before the TV episode airs, some analysts said that the initiative by ABC.com, part of the Walt Disney Internet Group, is not necessarily groundbreaking.

"Unless (networks) create some sort of groundswell for the program, they don't really have anything," said Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff. "I think (the soap opera video) is an obvious kind of promotion. I don't have any trouble with it, but it doesn't seem particularly innovative to me...because it's just video to promote what you've got."

ABC.com said its "Port Charles" initiative is another example of how ABC.com is converging with the ABC Network programming to enhance the viewing experience for its audience.

"The (ABC.com) initiative is designed to heighten this new approach to traditional storytelling and to provide a unique way of accessing the story," Angela Shapiro, president of ABC Daytime, said in a statement.