ABC Doubles The Ad Load Within iPad Episode Streams

iPad users who have been catching up on full-length episodes of Lost and V this week will see twice as many ads as usual. In an interview with VideoNuze about the change in ad policy, Albert Cheng, EVP, Digital Media for Disney/ABC (NYSE: DIS) Television, said that will also begin doubling the ad load on program streams on its online player as well. He expects other broadcasters to begin increasing the number of ads across their digital outlets too, in response to the continuing growth of online video viewing and marketers’ rising spending.

ABC’s free iPad app, which was available since the iPad was launched in early April, has been downloaded 800,000 times, with 4.2 million episodes viewed. As such, ABC believes the time is right to be more aggressive about establishing what Cheng calls a “DVR economics” across viewing on computers and portable devices.

Right now, an program runs about 5 or 6 ads that are 30-seconds long, which add up to roughly 2 1/2 to 3 minutes of commercial time. In contrast, on-air TV programs include about 20 minutes of ad time during an hour-long show.

One of the reasons broadcasters have held back the number of ad time across online video streams was because they feared that users did not have the patience to sit through a large number of ads, given that it’s even easier to go to another website than change the TV channel. Secondly, broadcasters and marketers believed that more ads shown during a stream would diminish brand recall and lead to clutter — a major problem on TV.

ABC’s decision to show many more ads across its digital outlets suggest that these risks may be overblown. Or, that the upside of running fewer ads during video streams hasn’t been that great.