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Website Review: ABC Tests Online Streams of Hit Shows

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Earlier this week, I decided to take advantage of ABC’s online experiment showing free streams of their hit TV shows. Part test model to measure potential online usage, part additional stream to promote shows like Alias, Desperate Housewives, and Lost during these crucial May ratings sweeps. ABC is offering the option, until the end of June, to view select shows with limited commercial inserts for free. For those preferring to simply pay for the download through iTunes, that $1.99 option also remains.

So what was the experience like?

Not bad. There were only three one-minute commercials, all promoting new movies. You don’t even have to watch the entire ad. ABC kindly gives the click option to skip the rest of the ad to return to the show after approximately 20 seconds. I’m not sure why they give the option since it seems to defeat the purpose of this temporary experiment; however, I appreciated it and took full advantage of it to get back to the show.

The viewer offers a small or expanded-screen option. Unfortunately, the screen is still small on my 17″ Powerbook. There is no full screen option. The stream got glitchy a few times and even stalled to the point where I had to quit the browser and restart the viewing. But, overall, it was an okay experience, especially since it allowed me to watch Housewives for the first time since the new season of The Sopranos began in early March.

Apparently, there are a lot of people also testing out the free show streams, too.

Z News reports:

ABC’s web site crashed twice yesterday as Internet users flocked to watch streaming versions of its most popular shows, including Lost and Desperate Housewives. It was the first time the shows were available online directly from the network, and the first time the advertising community had gotten a look at what ad products would be offered. It was also the first opportunity for the industry to gauge how popular such an ad-supported offering might be with consumers. The site crashed for two periods beginning at 6:30 a.m. EST and 2:00 p.m. EST, according to data from Keynote Systems, which offers traffic and site performance analysis services. The outages lasted a half-hour and an hour-and-a-half each, respectively. The data was based on attempts to access the ABC site from 31 cities worldwide.

Regardless of these brief outages, it appears (no surprise) that this experiment is a success and a good backup for the VCR/TiVo/download-adverse crowd to make sure they don’t miss their favorite shows. It’s a sneak peek at how the Internet will deliver “mainstream” content by all the major networks in the not-too-distant future.

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