ABC shows draw 3 million views

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Viewers have watched ABC television shows available online about 3 million times since the Walt Disney Co. network launched the free service just over two weeks ago, Disney's chief executive said Thursday.

The figure provides an early sign of demand for television programs available on the Internet as broadcasters experiment with new ways of reaching viewers.

ABC began a two-month Internet trial earlier this month, allowing viewers to watch four of its programs, including blockbuster hits Desperate Housewives and Lost, on the Web with commercials.

"We're going to experiment with different business models," Disney CEO Bob Iger said on Thursday at a lunch sponsored by the Boston College Chief Executives' Club.

Disney is looking at a variety of options for expanding the service, which airs shows on the ABC.com site about 12 hours after they are first broadcast on television, Iger said.

Each online episode kicks off with a 10-second sponsorship message from a single advertiser. It is followed by three commercials that air during breaks in the program.

Viewers have to watch or click through ads to get to the next segment of the program.

When asked if ABC.com might charge for some shows, Iger said that was among the options that Disney was considering.

In addition to offering ad-supported programming on ABC.com, Disney currently sells ad-free downloads of top-rated ABC shows through Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes online store.

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