Exploding TV: By the millions

ABC TV confirms that its experiment in enabling audience to watch shows online and via iTunes is a success:

More than 11 million viewers watched free ABC television shows on their computers during May, the first half of the network’s two-month experiment with streaming shows on the Internet.

The numbers, which come from ABC parent Walt Disney Co., have encouraged the network that viewers are willing to watch advertising online in exchange for free programming. The shows — “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Commander in Chief” and “Alias” — promise limited commercial interruptions, and those are restricted to one sponsor per show. Advertisers include AT&T Inc., Cingular Wireless LLC, Ford Motor Co. and Universal Pictures.

The trial has been successful enough that the network will bring back the service to coincide with the television season’s start in September.

To put the online numbers in perspective, “Lost” received the highest television ratings of the four ABC shows offered on the Internet, averaging about 15 million viewers a week in the recently completed season.