Streaming TV on ABC and MTV Is Profitable

Both MTV Networks and ABC.com have achieved profitability in their online video efforts, said execs on a panel in New York last night, according to an account on Multichannel News. The two networks have clear and aggressive strategies for distributing TV shows online — MTVN has aimed for wide distribution while ABC has pushed a walled garden of high-quality streams. And apparently, they’re paying off.

For MTV Networks, online video as a business is profitable, said Greg Clayman, executive vice president of digital distribution and business development — but “the bad news is it’s still a small one, certainly relative to the rest of our business.”

Meanwhile, on a gross-margin basis, ABC.com is also profitable, with every streamed episode bringing in a profit (though a smaller profit than that of the TV version). “It took us a while to do that…but it’s been really a good business,” said Albert Cheng, Disney/ABC Television Group executive vice president of digital media. Both Cheng and Clayman spoke of attempting to grow online profits to match and even surpass those made on television.

Karen Gilford of Comcast web portal Fancast was also on the panel talking up the cableco’s coming efforts to give online content to paying customers. She seemed to be in denial about cord-cutting, describing people who drop their TV service for web alternatives as “a theoretical idea rather than a real trend,” according to the Multichannel story.

Sorry, but as a young person (and not just a NewTeeVeester), I can say with certainty that’s just not true. So it’s a good thing to hear networks are actually making money from what’s going to be many people’s reality.

One thing’s for sure: We’ve come a long way from almost exactly two years ago, when MTVN parent Viacom sued YouTube for $1 billion while barely offering legit alternative versions of its shows online.

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