Deal has some ABC affiliates feeling uneasy
Less than two weeks after replacing Michael Eisner as Disney's CEO, Bob Iger began to put his stamp on the company Wednesday with a potentially precedent-setting deal that impressed several company analysts - but created anxiety among some of his key allies, his ABC network's affiliates.
Iger sent several signals by agreeing to sell current episodes of some of his company's biggest TV hits on Apple's iTunes Music Store - and added an intriguing strategy to television's fast-changing business models.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity for consumers to stay or get connected to their favorite program," Iger said at a news conference.
The companies gave no financial details. Offered on iTunes for $1.99 are ad-free episodes of ABC's Desperate Housewives, Lost and Night Stalker and Disney Channel's That's So Raven and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody for download to computers and Apple's new video iPod. Not just past-season fare is for sale: Current episodes of the ABC hits will be on sale the day after they air.
That earned a cool response from some of ABC's affiliates - who weren't told in advance that Disney would offer its most popular shows online. "We have a lot of questions," said Young Broadcasting President Deb McDermott, a former head of the ABC Affiliates Board. "We want to be sure it doesn't affect over-the-air viewing," including reruns.