ABC News Spreads to New Platforms

Any screen, any time. That’s new mantra for cable programmers, especially those with short-form content. And ABC is the prototypical programmer, looking to extend its reach into as many platforms as possible.

The company launched a 24/7 linear news network, ABC News Now, that is available to broadband Internet subscribers. That same “channel” is being pitched to operators as a linear digital TV service, as well as for video-on-demand packages.

ABC News Now and VOD highlight clips have started to appear on mobile wireless platforms, first with MobiTV, Sprint TV, Smart Video and GoTV. In late April, it added Sony Corp.’s PlayStation PSP platform.

“What has dramatically changed is the need to deliver content to only one screen,” said Bernie Gershon, senior vice president and general manager for “Now there is the opportunity to deliver content to multiple screens at the same time,” allowing ABC News to extend its franchise and generate brand new revenue streams, he said.

“We think there is a terrific long-term opportunity in partnering with telcos, MSOs, satellite and wireless carriers [to provide content to many screens],” Gershon said.

ABC News Now also is part of ABC/ESPN’s broad VOD pitch, linking content across many disparate channels for operators’ VOD platforms. “We’re looking for distribution as a digital cable channel and on VOD,” he said.

The ABC News Now is available as a standalone subscription service ($4.95 a month) for broadband Internet users, but the vast majority of subscribers see the content as part of their high-speed data bundle. Comcast Corp. carries the news network as part of The Fan section of its Web site, allowing subscribers to access the full 24/7 feed and VOD news clips.

“Comcast is getting in excess of 10 million plays per month of on demand clips,” Gershon said, noting that usage is across a universe of 7.4 million high-speed subscribers.

The service also is available to some 20 million subscribers via AOL Broadband, RealOne SuperPass, SBC Yahoo and BellSouth Corp.’s digital subscriber line service. Those providers all have access to the linear channel and the bulk of the clip service, Gershon said.

When news breaks, Gershon said, ABC sees spikes in usage, as well as spikes around lunchtime on the East Coast and as West Coast workers arrive at their jobs. ABC News also sees another bump in the evening, when people go online at home.

ABC News does sell advertising on the service, which ranges from buttons and flash ads to full-scale video. Video ads, typically running from 15 seconds to 30 seconds, appear before and after VOD clips.

The service counts more than a dozen advertisers, and is growing, Gershon said.

The VOD programming being offered to cable operators includes content from specially-produced DVDs of Pope John Paul and the 25th anniversary of Barbara Walters’ 20/20 interviews. The package also includes other stories and major interviews from ABC News.

“We think we have incredible high-value content, and we are in a position to help cable operators reduce churn,” he said.