Disney on Demand

It's so easy to get Lost these days. No, I'm not telling you to go away. I'm just pointing out the growing number of alternatives to gluing yourself to the television on Wednesday nights to catch the latest episode of ABC's hit series Lost.

In a deal between ABC parent Disney (NYSE: DIS) and cable provider Cox, folks will be able to catch many hit ABC shows, as well as some ESPN college football games, for free through the video-on-demand service that is available to Cox subscribers.

There is a catch, though. Subscribers won't be able to zap through the commercials as they often do when watching a recorded show on a DVR. This is important, because while the commercial slots will play out in their entirety, it will rarely be the same advertisements on display.

It seems as if Disney and Cox will be able to mix in an assortment of fresh commercials, from nationally sold Disney ads to Cox spots to sponsored segments brokered by local ABC affiliates. Dynamically targeted ads — by region and even by ZIP code — will make this an intriguing deal. Dated commercials are wasted space when you think about it. When I look up a recently recorded show on my TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO), it doesn't make sense to see ads pitching network shows that already aired, expired blowout sales, or theatrical releases that have come and gone.

Disney ruffled affiliate feathers a year ago when it began streaming episodes of hit shows like Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives through its website. What with the popularity of DVD releases of entire seasons and DVR users who fly through ad breaks, it's been a challenge for the local stations to get their ads across. The deal with Cox, which will start offering the service when the fall season starts, at least gets them back into the mix. 

Cable providers still see video on demand as a premium service, though companies like Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) have been fleshing out the free offerings as a way to educate consumers and make their service stand out. They don't want to get lost in the crowd when it comes to making sure that you get Lost in a crowd.

Disney and TiVo are Motley Fool Stock Advisorrecommendations. Disney will also be reporting its fiscal second-quarter earnings after the market closes today, so check back on Fool.com to see our thoughts.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz realizes that there are just three episodes left of Lost this season. He plans on catching them all. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. He does own shares in Disney and TiVo. The Fool has a disclosure policy.

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