Wednesday, September 5, 2007

ABC Entertainment and Warner Bros. TV in Innovative Digital Deal

ABC and WBTV have entered into a complicated deal relating to rights in shows that WBTV produces for ABC, Variety reports.

Digression - essential facts for those not in the TV biz:

Many network shows are produced by outside producers. All of the networks are owned by studios, or vice versa, or by conglomerates that own both networks and studios.

Thus, the conglomerates are frenemies - they sometimes produce content for their own networks, and sometimes for their competitors' networks. Co-ownership of studios and networks was prohibited for many years by the FinSyn (Financial Interest and Syndication rules), but those were eliminated in the mid-90s.

There's a third set of corporate players in the TV business: the affiliates. Most network TV stations are not O&Os (Owned and Operated stations, e.g., owned by the networks themselves). Rather, they are network affiliates -- standalone entities or part of station groups owned by other media companies such as Hearst.

Back to the story:

The deal apparently allows ABC to stream the shows on in year 1 (non-permanent) for up to 4 weeks from initial broadcast, then allows WBTV in year 2 to distribute the same shows via permanent downloads, DVD box sets and non-permanent streams. Each party keeps ad revenue from its own 1-year window.

WBTV has to brand the shows as ABC offerings. This is not surprising, since consumer perception of TV show brand is the network, not the producer. WBTV has not decided where to distribute the shows.

Last year, on "The Nine," the deal was different: ABC had streaming rights and WBTV had download. Contracts with its affiliates limit the number of shows ABC is permitted to offer via download to 25%.

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