ABC, Warner Bros. to Make More Episodes Available On Demand

  • Deal lets pay-TV subscribers binge-watch shows they missed
  • `Stacking' rights aimed at combating rising Netflix popularity

Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network reached an agreement with Warner Bros. that will increase the number of current-season episodes viewers can watch on demand.

The deal is the first of its kind for Time Warner Inc.’s TV studio, according to a statement Thursday. Networks and producers are working together to increase audiences by striking deals that let cable subscribers binge-watch shows they missed, as they do on Netflix Inc.

Media companies like Time Warner and Fox have signaled that they are rethinking sales of shows to Netflix. Investors are concerned they may be jeopardizing the long-term health of the TV industry for lucrative short-term deals with the streaming service, which along with Amazon.com Inc. is taking viewers away from regular TV.

Starting later this year, ABC will offer on-demand viewing of all episodes of the current season of any new show made for the network by Warner Bros., according to the statement. Warner Bros. is producing two pilots for ABC, the drama “Time After Time” and the comedy “Dream Team,” according to the studio. The deal applies to new shows going forward, not current ones like “The Bachelor,” a Warner Bros. show on ABC.

Currently, cable subscribers can only watch the last five episodes of many TV shows, because studios have sold the exclusive full-season rights to online services.

Online Competition

Many Hollywood studios -- as well as producers and actors -- have opposed selling so-called “stacking” rights to TV networks, because Netflix won’t pay as much for full seasons that were available through pay-TV distributors. So TV networks often have to pay studios more to acquire those rights.

ABC primarily only makes the previous five episodes of shows it produces available on demand to pay-TV companies, according to Karen Hobson, a spokeswoman. On Hulu, which is jointly owned by ABC, Fox and NBC, the network makes available full seasons of many but not all the shows that its studio produces.

Making shows more widely available on demand could increase their popularity and boost profit from sales of reruns, whether to streaming services, cable networks or international outlets.

“The more people watch our shows, the more valuable they become for us over the long run,” Craig Hunegs, president of business and strategy at Warner Bros. Television Group, said in the statement.

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