ABC Site Buckles as Network Streams First Ad-Supported Shows

ABC’s Web site crashed twice yesterday as Internet users flocked to watch streaming versions of its most popular shows, including “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives.”

It was the first time the shows were available online directly from the network, and the first time the advertising community had gotten a look at what ad products would be offered. It was also the first opportunity for the industry to gauge how popular such an ad-supported offering might be with consumers.

Launch sponsors include Tylenol, Ford Fusion and Universal Pictures flick “The Break-up.” Each episode is single-sponsor, with brief placements proceeding and longer ones interrupting the programming.

The in-stream ads are a combination of video spots and some rich media elements more traditionally associated with the Internet. For instance, ad units for “The Break-up” show a still photo of stars Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston in bed together, animated by a strip of duct tape drawn down between them. Once the tape comes down, the film’s trailer plays, nested within the image. Links lead to other content, such as the film’s Web site. After viewing the ad for 30 seconds, users must click to continue watching their show.

The intro ad is a simple sponsor graphic with voiceover. One episode’s voiceover went, “This episode of Alias is brought to you with limited commercials by Tylenol.'”

The site crashed for two periods beginning at 6:30 a.m. EST and 2:00 p.m. EST, according to data from Keynote Systems, which offers traffic and site performance analysis services. The outages lasted a half-hour and an hour-and-a-half each, respectively. The data was based on attempts to access the ABC site from 31 cities worldwide.

“During the day today, there were some very pronounced increases in page download times followed by Web page outages,” said Abelardo Gonzalez, a product manager for Keynote Systems. “The main error reported by the ABC home page was TCP Connection Error which could mean that the servers were not able to answer any new requests for users.”

An ABC spokesperson contacted by ClickZ said she was unaware of the outages.

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