Disney's ABC and ESPN announced Tuesday that they will offer Cox Communications subscribers certain programs on-demand, but Cox will be required to disable its fast-forward feature that lets viewers skip advertisements.
The deal announced at the National Cable Television Association's annual convention in Las Vegas was
Beginning this fall, subscribers will be able to select episodes from four popular ABC TV shows--Ugly Betty, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy and Lost--the day after the shows air. Select programming from ESPN will also be available on-demand. Initially, ESPN will offer football programs for the on-demand service.
The service is free to Cox subscribers through the company's FreeZone on-demand service. In exchange for the free, on-demand programming, customers will not be able to fast-forward through advertisements.
As part of the deal, Cox and Disney will also test new technology that will allow Cox to insert advertisements based on users' location. This will allow Cox and the networks to sell location-relevant ads to consumers.
The big question will be whether people will watch the on-demand shows if they can't skip the advertisements, especially when subscribers using digital video recorders will still be able to skip ads.
"Of course, our customers who have a DVR could choose to record the show and skip the commercials," said David Grabert, a spokesman for Cox. "But recording a show requires an action. And the on-demand service simply gives people another option to try programming they might not have thought to watch or record."