Popular Disney TV Shows to Be Free Online

Tired of paying Apple’s iTunes Music store $1.99 per episode to keep up with ABC shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives? The Walt Disney Company is betting you’re not alone: Disney today announced it will be launching a two-month trial program during May and June which some of its most popular shows will be available on the Internet for free via ABC.com.

The catch? (You knew there had to be a catch!) The episodes available via Apple’s iTunes Music Store are blissfully commercial-free. Disney’s free versions? Not so much.

The free shows will be supported by advertising revenue, with AT&T, Ford, Procter & Gamble, and Universal Pictures already signed on to pummel viewers with come-ons and pitches. Viewers will be treated to 16:9 widescreen formatting at either 500 by 282 pixels (400kbs) or 700 by 394 pixels (700 kbps) via a Mac- and PC-compatible player built using Flash 8. Viewers will be able to pause and move between “chapters” of an episode (probably loosely corresponding to “acts” of the episode normally separated by commercial breaks), but won’t be able to skip over embedded advertisements. Episodes will be available the day after they’re originally broadcast.

The offering will feature current episodes of ABC shows Lost,Desperate Housewives, and Commander-in-Chief (which, after Emmy attention, seems to have been resurrected from “Commander-Got-Cancelled”), as well as the entire final season of spy drama Alias.

ABC and other network affiliates are known to be disgruntled with their parent networks and studios taking their content to the masses via the Internet, cutting affiliate broadcasters out of the ever-decreasing revenue loop for broadcast television. “Our ultimate goal is to find an effective online model, one in which our affiliates can take part,” stated Alex Wallau, president, Operations and Administration, ABC Television Network. “To that end, we’ll be sharing information from this two-month test in our discussions going forward, and working on ways for them to participate in this new method of delivering ABC programming.”