ABC Reaches Its First Ever Web Syndie Deal With AOL

Mike Shields
SEPTEMBER 20, 2007 -

ABC – the lone holdout among the major broadcast networks when it comes to distributing its top shows on Web sites other than its own – has struck its first syndication deal with a major portal. The network said that it has reached an agreement with AOL to deliver full-length, ad supported episodes of a slew of its prime-time shows starting on Sept. 25.

The programming strategy planned for ABC shows on AOL mirrors the one the network has previously employed on Users will be able to stream full-length episodes of shows the day after they are broadcast, and generally four-week’s worth of episodes will be available at one time. Among the shows ABC plans to distribute on AOL include The Bachelor (which debuts on the Web on Sept. 25), Desperate Housewives, Dancing with the Stars, Ugly Betty and Grey’s Anatomy; along with the new series Carpoolers, Cavemen and Samantha Who?, among others. And besides its prime-time hits, ABC said it plans to deliver some original short-form programming to the portal down the road.

ABC’s move toward embracing a more open distribution strategy is less aggressive than competitors CBS, NBC and Fox, at least to date. Through the CBS Interactive Audience Network, CBS shows will find their way onto a wide range of sites, including AOL, MSN, Veoh and Bebo, while the joint venture between Fox and NBC will see those networks’ shows made available on all of the top Web portals, plus MySpace and the soon to launch

However, ABC has negotiated to include its proprietary video player on AOL as part of its distribution deal. That player was praised by many buyers for its smooth user experience and smart user of advertising. But for now, its clear that ABC is at least taking to the theory that more distribution outlets will yield more audience than its own Web site could deliver alone. “As we experiment with new ways to grow our digital business, we remain focused on finding smart, new methods to connect viewers to the content they want and brands they love on the platforms they choose,” said Anne Sweeney, co-chair, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney-ABC Television Group. “This deal not only provides additional viewing opportunities for our consumers, but also gives our affiliates and advertisers another way to reach our audience and associate with our powerful network brands.”