ABC runs one of the last true walled gardens in online video content, preferring to keep eyeballs on one of their properties instead of letting them stray to sites that embed their shows. If you want to watch an episode, or even clips, of their hit show LOST, you have to navigate over to ABC.com's full episode player.
Could it be that the Mouse-House is finally thinking about setting sail on the high seas of distributed online video? Well call it dipping a toe in the water perhaps. Today ABC announced that full episodes of its hit shows (Lost, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty) along with sports content from ESPN will be available exclusively through video startup Veoh's site. The catch of course is that the videos won't be embeddable, and in fact just link directly back to the ABC or ESPN sites. On top of that you have to install a plug-in for the Move Networks player just to get it working.
NBC, which backed video site Hulu as a joint venture with rival News Corp., took the approach of wrapping it's content in a premium player with pre-roll and post-roll advertising, and setting it free. CBS's shows can be found on numerous video sites, including Joost, Veoh, MSN, Comcast.com, and others. This feels a bit like a "me-too" from ABC, realizing that getting traffic to ABC.com is much more expensive than letting your content go to where the traffic already is. Time will tell. When you have hit shows that are destinations in themselves, ala LOST, you can afford to be a little guarded. But with more and more video conent getting watched online - currenty 19% of all video conent is watched on a personal computer according to Ipsos MediaCT, the changing habits of viewers means to launch the next hit shows, you'll need to go where they are, not where you are.