ABC Entertainment and Warner Bros. TV Group have struck a deal on streaming rights for shows including “Pushing Daisies,” the fall’s most talked-about new drama.
Unveiled Wednesday, the two-year pact gives ABC the opportunity to stream Warner Bros. TV shows as non-permanent offerings in year one, and Warner Bros. TV the ability to distribute those same episodes in year two — as permanent downloads and DVD box sets in addition to non-permanent online streams.
Both sides called the template “groundbreaking.”
“This speaks to the larger digital strategy we launched two years ago with the iTunes store, and a full year ago with the ABC.com player,” said Disney Media Networks co-chair Anne Sweeney. “What we’ve seen over the past full year of usage, viewers are coming to the player to catch up on episodes they have missed.”
Warner Bros. TV Group prexy Bruce Rosenblum said the pact was “significantly different” than previous arrangements.
“This provides an opportunity for our studio to tap into the ad-supported marketplace much sooner,” he said.
ABC Entertainment business affairs exec VP Jana Winograde and Warner Bros. TV Group business management exec VP Craig Hunegs negotiated the deal, deemed “experimental” by the network and studio.
Under the unprecedented two-year deal, ABC has the right to stream all four of its Warner Bros. TV offerings — which also include returnees “Men in Trees” and “Notes From the Underbelly” and newcomer “Big Shots” — on its ABC.com broadband player for up to four weeks after each episode’s initial broadcast.
As part of that arrangement, ABC will retain the ad revenue generated on the player.
Then, in year two, Warner Bros. TV will take over the rights to stream the previous year’s episodes wherever it chooses — and will also be able to offer the segs via downloads and DVD boxed sets. Warner Bros. TV will also then keep that second-year ad revenue.
In one unusual aspect to that arrangement, Warner Bros. TV will continue to brand those second-year downloads as coming from ABC — and will be required to promote back to the network.
Just where repeats of Warners- produced ABC shows will appear hasn’t been decided. Warners has its in2TV service, but Hunegs indicated the studio wanted to expand its online TV offerings.
“You can expect us to offer a broader array of video channels,” he said.
Hunegs said the deal was all about evening out the revenue-earning potential from new media applications.
“ABC has significantly more flexibility to grow its business than it did a year ago, and we need the same flexibility,” he said.
Pact is a switch from last year’s arrangement between ABC and Warner Bros. TV for the series “The Nine.” In that case, the two sides split online components, with ABC retaining non-permanent streaming rights (including ad revenue) and Warner Bros. keeping all permanent download rights (such as iTunes and Amazon.com).
But over the past year, entertainment congloms have turned more of their attention toward online streaming (and away from the download marketplace), as it became apparent that users were more willing to sit through commercials in order to watch shows online for free.
The new ABC/Warner Bros. TV template is meant to acknowledge that fact.
As a matter of fact, the deal doesn’t even include a permanent download (or “electronic sell-through”) component in year one. But that’s not just a function of consumer preference; ABC is limited via its affiliate contracts in the amount of primetime fare — currently 25% — that it can offer as an online download.
That may not be set in stone, however. While the deal doesn’t specifically call for Warners shows to appear on iTunes or other electronic sell-through platforms, Hunegs said it’s still possible shows such as “Pushing Daisies” could end up there.
“We want to be a part of both businesses,” he said. “The nice part of this deal is that it gives us the opportunity to be a part of just about any online platform.”
The deal also reps the latest in a long line of groundbreaking deals between Disney/ABC and Warner Bros. TV, which in the past have included off-net programming rights to “Whose Line Is It Anyway.”
“Both companies have a really clear vision for their businesses and where they want to go with it,” Winograde said. “It allows us to muddle through all the sticky issues.”
Among other studios, ABC already has a deal in place with Sony Pictures TV to stream new skein “Cashmere Mafia,” while the studio remains in talks with 20th Century Fox TV about online distribution for “Women’s Murder Club.”