Tv's And Pc's Reach Merging Point

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In its latest experiment in merging television with the Internet, ABC is planning to make most of its programming available for free on a revamped website beginning April 30, the Wall Street Journal reported today (Monday), citing no sources. A limited number of shows, including Alias, Commander in Chief, and Lost, will make their debut at launch, with the network expanding the available programming in the future. Shows from cable networks owned by the Walt Disney Co., including the Disney Channel and ABC Family Channel are due to become available in June, while Soapnet plans to offer some programs beginning April 17. Each will be "streamed" and contain commercials that viewers won't be able to skip, the Journal reported, although the video can be paused, rewound and fast-forwarded. It cannot be downloaded to portable devices like the iPod or PSP, although some of the same programming will continue to be provided for downloading commercial-free for $1.99 on Apple's iTunes Music Store. Ten advertisers have reportedly signed up for the service, which will limit the number of ad breaks to three, instead of the usual five, with a commercial for only one advertiser appearing during each break. The Journal observed that the move could spark numerous rifts with Disney partners -- cable companies are likely to complain that the plan is aimed at bypassing them; affiliates would probably complain that they would be unable to benefit from the online operation; unions might complain that the company is opening a new revenue source for itself without cutting in the creators of the material being offered.



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