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ABC Trials Ad-Supported Programs Via Web

Reuters reports that ABC Television will offer some of its most popular shows, such as "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost," for free on the Internet in a two-month trial, the company said.

Advertising revenue will support the trial run on ABC.com, with advertisers AT&T, Ford Motor, Procter & Gamble and Universal Pictures already signed up. "Commander in Chief" and "Alias" along with "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" will be available on the Web in May and June, starting the day after they are first broadcast.

Viewers will be able to pause and move between "chapters" in an episode but will not be able to skip ads that are technically embedded. Disney-ABC is also launching a high-speed Internet channel for soap opera fans, called Soapnetic on April 17 for subscribers to Verizon Communications' Internet services.

Leading U.S. media companies are experimenting with ways to deliver programs via new technologies and still maintain revenue as viewership for their prime-time schedules slowly erodes. ABC sells digital downloads of its highest-rated TV shows for the popular iPod music and video player, while other networks have been testing online and video-on-demand formats for airing shows soon after they first appear on broadcast TV.

"In the future, consumers will rely more and more on strong brands to help them navigate the digital world, and we have some of the strongest brands in entertainment," said Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC television group. "Stay tuned -- because this is just the beginning."

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