ABC Making TV Shows Available for Free on Internet
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Two things that have gone together for the past 60 years are television and free programming. Now that concept is moving online.
The Walt Disney Company plans to offer some of its ABC Primetime shows, including Desperate Housewives and Lost, for free on the Internet. New York Times columnist David Pogue joins us, as he often does.
Mr. DAVID POGUE (New York Times Columnist): Good morning.
MONTAGNE: So, David, these TV shows are free and with no restrictions. And you can get an entire season free. How much of a first is this for the Internet?
Mr. POGUE: The interesting thing is that ABC was already a pioneer in offering its shows on the Internet for this new generation that wants to download them. But, it's been charging, or rather Apples iTunes Music Store has been charging $2.00 apiece for them, although with no ads.
So what Disney is saying is, well, wait a minute. Maybe there was something good about the old model where ads paid for the freeness to watch. So they're going to make their shows available to watch online for free, but with ads that you can't skip.
MONTAGNE: In a sense, the ads that you can't jump over, that's the hitch.
Mr. POGUE: Exactly. So, now you'll have a choice of this, pretty much the same selection of ABC shows. You can get them for $2.00 each in a downloadable form that you can take with you on a little iPod and watch away from the house, or you can sit there in front of your computer and watch the same shows with ads for nothing.
MONTAGNE: There's a hitch right there. Does anyone really want to sit in front of their computer to watch TV?
Mr. POGUE: You know, not everybody does, but I've noticed something about technology, which is that new technologies usually don't just replace the older ones, they sort of add on. They splinter the audience. So, there are people whose computers are hooked up to their TV's, so they can watch them on their TV sets, and there are travelers with laptops sitting in airport waiting lounges who will love this. And yes, there is a younger generation who sees nothing unnatural at all about watching videos on their computer screens.
MONTAGNE: So, why ABC rather than any other network company?
Mr. POGUE: Ah, an interesting question with an interesting story. When ABC was the first network to put its shows up for sale on Apple's iTunes Music Store, there was wide speculation that ABC was sort of bullied into it by Apple's Steve Jobs, because Steve Jobs is also the CEO of Pixar, whose contract with Disney was about to expire. So, he sort of dangled Pixar as a carrot to force ABC's hand.
So now, of course, ABC is taking this step of its own initiative. Or is it? Because Steve Jobs is now on the board of Disney. So, all kinds of possibilities run through your head.
MONTAGNE: What about, then, other networks? Do you expect that they will follow suit?
Mr. POGUE: They are all experimenting with this idea of selling or putting shows up online. CBS has already had some fantastic good luck. They broadcast the March Madness basketball games for free on the Internet last month, and they had huge numbers of viewers. So they're anticipating that they'll going to continue. They're going to broadcast golf highlights and some other important events sort of television shows.
And I think everyone's going to be watching ABC to see how this free experiment does. But all of the major networks now are offering shows either for sale or for free, in some form, on the Internet. And I think that's a great trend that's only going to continue.
MONTAGNE: David Pogue is the personal technology columnist for the New York Times.
Thanks very much.
Mr. POGUE: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION for NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.