Credit the binge effect: ABC and Warner Bros. Television Group have announced a groundbreaking deal that changes the way streaming rights for TV series are handled.
Under the terms of the deal, ABC soon will have the option to offer an entire season of episodes of any Warner Bros.-produced series launched in the next two seasons on a variety of video-on-demand platforms.
Currently, most networks only allow five episodes of a TV show to be available online. That method was established several years ago in an effort to maintain viewership on TV and preserve advertising revenue.
The ABC-Warner Bros. deal is important because it shows how TV companies are adjusting established business models to deal with the new realities of consumer behavior.
Increasingly, TV viewers like to catch up, or binge-watch, their favorite shows on Internet services such as Netflix and Hulu. Viewers often were frustrated that they could not watch more than five episodes.
TV network executives hoped that limiting the number of episodes online would encourage viewers to return to watching TV the old fashioned way -- during the prime-time hours.
The agreement illustrates how networks and studios are grappling with on-demand delayed viewing platforms and ways to monetize them.
"This is a real win for network television viewers," said Jana Winograde, ABC's executive vice president for business operations, in a statement. "Giving our audience even more opportunities to catch up on their favorite shows in their entirety, on demand, only enhances their loyalty to and engagement with ABC and our series."
Warner Bros. will retain end-of-season subscription video-on-demand rights and early syndication rights, as well as day-after EST and early DVD rights.
"Along with our partners at ABC, we're pleased to offer viewers the convenience to discover and watch our shows on their own schedule and on the screen they choose," said Craig Hunegs, president of business and strategy at Warner Bros. Television Group. "For our studio, the more people watch our shows, the more valuable they become for us over the long run."
The studio has two pilots in contention at ABC for the 2016-17 season: the new Kevin Williamson drama "Time After Time" and the comedy "Dream Team." Should any of them go to series, they would be covered under the deal with ABC.
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