April 6, 2005

The U.S. television network ABC says its 24-hour news network, ABC News Now, will become a permanent 24-hour television news network starting in July. Currently, the operation is only available on the Internet as a streaming media web site.

The network started as a experiment by the Walt Disney Company-owned ABC in the summer of 2004 during the U.S. presidential campaign nomination conventions. It was mostly broadcast as a subchannel or shared channel within the bandwidth of an existing digital television (DTV) channel already owned by ABC. For instance if the local ABC affiliate is on Channel 7 with a DTV channel of 23, then ABC News Now may have been available on digital channel 23.1, sharing the same bandwidth.

Because few households in the U.S. are equipped to tune in digital over-the-air sub-channels, and virtually none are carried on local cable companies, ratings were low for the fledgling digital channel. Adding to that technical difficulty, cable carriage of the network was small. ABC News Now was delivered to only 6 of the 110 million U.S. households via cable. Most viewers of the network, 30 million at last count, watched the network via the Internet.

Citing money reasons, ABC shuttered the over-the-air ABC News Now broadcasts in January to focus on building the web-based service. But come July, ABC plans to return its news network and its 20 original programs to local TV stations. Without any commitment from national cable or satellite companies, ABC will return to digital sub-channels on local DTV transmissions.

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