ABC, Cox put technology to the test

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NEW YORK -- Disney-ABC Television Group and Cox Communications Inc. said Tuesday that they would test several technologies this fall, including allowing ABC's broadband player to appear on Cox's Website and testing ad-insertion technology within a VOD environment.

It will be the first time Disney-ABC has syndicated its broadband player, which it launched to great fanfare a year ago at NCTA's annual conference and is available not only on ABC.com but on about 80% of ABC's affiliated stations' Web sites. Cox.net will be another site for the broadband player that gives users the ability to watch episodes of several ABC shows.

Cox.net will link to the ABC site, which is where the ABC broadband player will run so that ABC can keep control over it.

Cox and ABC will also team up for dynamic ad insertion on the video on demand platform when that technology gets up and running later this year or early next year. It will allow Cox and ABC to target down to the ZIP code ads; it isn't immediately clear how many ads the VOD service would have but it will be closer to the four ads per hour (including one local ad).

"We are committed to looking for new ad models, and we think this could be a winner," said Ben Pyne, president of Disney and ESPN Networks Affiliate Sales and Marketing.

The pact will offer four primetime series and some ESPN on ABC college football games on Cox's Freezone on-demand service. Episodes of "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy," "Ugly Betty" and "Lost" will be available this fall a day after they appear on broadcast TV.

Notable is Cox's disabling of the fast-foward, which will keep customers from skipping past the ads. The deal will kick off in August, just in time for promotion of the new season. The Cox trial has more to offer than a Comcast deal, which didn't include "Grey's Anatomy" or "Ugly Betty."

ABC said that the effort is spelled out in a non-binding letter of intent, which has yet to be finalized. The trials will be carried out in Orange County, Calif., as well as other unspecified markets. Pyne said that Orange County worked as the initial trial ground because it's the market has an ABC O&O plus it's highly advanced technologically on the Cox side. He declined to say how many of Cox's 2 million VOD-enabled homes would be involved but said eventually ABC would like to be in the full VOD-enabled footprint at some point.
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