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Future is Now for ABC News

ABC News is redoubling its efforts to build its fledging digital and broadband news channel ABC News Now into a viable news service.

The ongoing broadband news service--cell phones, computers--was expanded to a digital TV channel  as part of a test that began last July. The broadcast test ended after the presidential inauguration in January for re-tooling and relaunch. 

What has emerged is a multiplatform approach to 24-7 news that mixes broadband, video on demand and a cable network.

“The goal is to make sure we have news available to our audience where they are and on whatever device they want,” said ABC News President David Westin.

They've got the phones and PCs--ABC News Now already reaches 30 million broadband subscribers through deals with Comcast, AOL and SBC/Yahoo.

Now, the heavy lifting begins: Cable and broadcast carriage, which is proving more problematic.

Westin wants cable companies to pony up a sub fee for the service, though he would not say how much. Broadband companies are already paying for its service, though they are eager for branded content to drive their new video businesses. TV has the luxury of picking and choosing, though broadcast networks with cable programming services are in a good position to leverage the relative strengths of those services, a Desperate Housewife-carrying O&O or an ESPN, to secure carriage for their nets. 

ABC kicked off the re-launch at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association convention in San Francisco, where cable affiliate relations chief Sean Bratches is meeting with cable, satellite and telco companies.

For now, ABC News Now, which has hopes of becoming one of the multicast channels on ABC affiliates' digital stations, will only be carried on broadcast by ABC’s 10 owned-and-operated stations, but ABC is still pitching the service to affiliates, which it is counting on to provide content.

To sweeten the pitch, Westin says stations will be able to put their local newscasts on the channel, plus they will get local cut-ins a la Good Morning America.