One of my recurrent themes has been the question of who is going to pay for downloaded content from the Internet. iTunes has already shown that many people are willing to pay to download commerical-free television episodes. Now the returns are in on ABC’s experiment with free downloads of prime time episodes that include commercials. The company reports more than 11 million viewings in the first month alone.
Perhaps more significant is the fact that viewers recalled the sponsoring advertiser 87% of the time, which is more than twice the rate of 40% for standard broadcast versions of the shows. Frankly, with the increasing use of VCRs and DVRs, I’m a bit surprised that the 40% figure is even that high.
Disney will end the trial program next week on June 30th, but plans to resume this fall with a revised site. This initial trial has shown that the Internet viewership apparently is in addition to the broadcast audience, which is good news for the network and advertisers. And now that ABC can show that the sponsorship is even more effective than broadcast ads, they should be able to charge enough to keep the downloads coming. And that’s good news for consumers.