The entertainment industry may finally have conquered its fear of working with the Net: Disney-ABC Television Group plans to distribute episodes of four of its shows online during a two-month trial.
From May through June, current ad-supported episodes of Commander In Chief, Desperate Housewives, and Lost, along with the entire season of Alias, will be available for free Internet streaming on ABC.com the day after their television premiere.
Since peer-to-peer file trading program Napster emerged in 1999, followed by a host of imitators, major entertainment companies have seen the Net as the last stop before bankruptcy. Seven years and thousands of copyright lawsuits later, not to mention over one billion legal music downloads from Apple's iTunes Music Store, the entertainment industry is looking upon the Net with cautious optimism.
Under CEO Robert Iger, Disney has embraced the Internet as a distribution channel. Just 11 days after taking over from former CEO Michael Eisner last October, Iger stood on stage with Steve Jobs to announce that Disney would be making some of its content available for Apple's iPod.
NBC and CBS have been thinking outside the television box, too. Last November, the two networks said separately that they would begin offering certain prime-time shows as on-demand downloads for $0.99. And in January, CBS content played a staring role when Google announced the launch of Google Video Marketplace.