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September 17, 2006

ABC/iTunes Giving a Million Free Downloads Away

In addition to ABC's announcement this past week that it will be streaming many of its top shows through its Web site for free, supported by advertising, the network also began a new promotion with Apple iTunes to help promote the season debuts of three of its top shows.

The company will be offering one million free downloads to interested iTunes consumers for the chance to download the season finales from last season of popular ABC shows Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, and Lost, which are--not coincidentally--three of the seven shows chosen for the new service on their Web site as well.

Why is ABC eager to provide viewers the chance to see the season finale of these shows and also to provide them the chance to watch the last four episodes for free online throughout the coming season? Because not only are these three among ABC's most popular offerings, but they are also fairly complex narratives that require the viewer to follow several stories simultaneously. Providing viewers multiple avenues through which they can catch up on these shows helps ensure that viewers will not quit watching mid-season and just wait until the show is released on DVD because they now have several avenues through which they can get caught up and better understand the next episode.

Also, ABC not only airs each of these three shows, but Touchstone--another Disney company--produces all three.

The current download initiative, accessible through a "Million Hit Lowdown" button on the ABC main site, began on Thursday and will last until Oct. 4. Viewers, after clicking the link, are allowed to watch one of the three season finales for free and also are allowed to download recap programs for each of the three shows for free, in addition to one of the finales.

Each of the three shows will make their individual episodes available for download through iTunes throughout the coming season as well.


This is a pretty good experiment for ABC. If they track the data, they could glean some really interesting information. A good project would be to do some analysis of the viewership patterns and see if indeed people are defecting mid-season and, if so, what fills that time slot. How might ARGs, downloads, freebies, etc., play a part in keeping people both watching the TV as well as staying connected to the story?

Personally, for programs like Lost and BSG, I am generally engaged during the start of the season but after a few shows I invariably opt to watching several programs in a row commercial free via DVD or DL (which means waiting). If this is something that can be generalized across a segment of program viewers, then what new models might evolve?

Posted by: Siddiq | September 19, 2006 3:46 PM
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