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Disney Ponders Pay Web Plan

7/26/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

The Walt Disney Co. is developing a subscription-based Web site that would provide TV shows, movies, games and other content, CEO Robert Iger said at an industry conference last week.

Iger also suggested that Internet-TV site Hulu — in which Disney recently took a reported 27.5% stake — could at some point charge a subscription fee for accessing some content.

“We have ample evidence both in traditional media and in new media that people are willing to pay for quality, they're willing to pay for choice, they're willing to pay for convenience,” Iger said at the Fortune Brainstorm: Tech conference, the Associated Press reported. “It's possible that Hulu will look at monetizing as well. It may be not just selling ads.”

The cable industry has already moved into experimentation phase with “TV Everywhere”: the idea that pay-TV subscribers can access a smorgasbord of programming on the Web as part of their service. Comcast has pulled in 23 networks so far, for a 5,000-home trial to start this summer (see “Comcast Swells Web-TV Roster,” July 20, 2009, page 3).

However, Iger remained skeptical that TV Everywhere, is in programmers' best interests. “We are not seeing evidence of cord-cutting, so why be part of something which isn't happening?” he said at the conference, echoing comments he made at The Cable Show earlier this year.

Iger did not provide details on Disney's pay Web site project, and Disney representatives declined to provide additional details on the plan.

The message to cable operators, Forrester Research analyst James McQuivey said, is that “Disney will aggressively maintain multiple channels to the consumer, rather than just marching in line behind the cable companies.”

September