ABC adds Webcast with Donaldson

Online survey honors Quayle and spelling of potato

WASHINGTON — ABC/Disney execs including Steve Bornstein and David Westin looked on as Sam Donaldson launched his first regular Webcast on Monday — a 15-minute news show to air exclusively on the Internet.

The news program kicked off with interviews with FCC chairman Bill Kennard and Real Networks CEO Rob Glaser. The show is scheduled to air at 12:30 ET Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It can be viewed live at ABCnews.com or via the Web site’s archive.

Donaldson, whose duties at ABC have been trimmed back recently, said he was excited about the project. “I’m pumped,” he enthused after walking off the cyberset. But even the ebullient Donaldson was a bit dismayed when told that only 128 people participated in a survey on the correct spelling of potato. “To me, that’s very low,” he said.

ABC News president Westin quickly pointed out to Donaldson that participants in the survey jumped to 300 within minutes of Donaldson’s signoff. By press time, more than 800 people participated in the spelling survey with more than 93% responding with the correct spelling.

The survey, Donaldson noted, was conducted in honor of former Vice President Dan Quayle, who bowed out of the presidential race Monday. Donaldson said the survey demonstrates how a Web-based news program can respond to issues of the day.

ABC execs predicted that Donaldson’s Webcast may make history by leading the first wave of television programming onto the Internet.

While network execs may be excited about the prospect of Web-based programming, affiliates may not be. Donaldson’s Webcast provides the second major route for networks to get around their local affils (the first is cable). Westin said he was confident that local stations would soon see the benefits of Internet-based programs such as Donaldson’s and quickly begin working with the network to exploit potential opportunities.