Walt Disney Co.'s ABC television network will offer some of its most popular shows, such as Desperate Housewives and Lost, for free on the Internet in a two-month trial, the company said on Monday.

The move was the latest effort by leading U.S. media companies to experiment with the delivery of programs through new technologies and still maintain revenue as viewership for prime-time television schedules slowly erodes.

ABC already sells digital downloads of its highest-rated TV shows for the popular iPod music and video player, while other networks have been testing online and video-on-demand formats for airing shows soon after they first appear on broadcast TV.

It's really an opportunity for us to learn about a different model, Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC television group, said at an annual cable industry convention in Atlanta on Monday. It's more importantly recognizing that none of us can live in a world of just one business model.

Top ABC shows such as Commander in Chief and Alias, along with Lost and Desperate Housewives, will be available on the Web at ABC.com in May and June, starting the day after they are first broadcast, the network said.

Viewers will be able to pause and move between chapters in an episode, but not skip ads that are technically embedded.

Advertising revenue will support the trial run on ABC.com, with 10 advertisers, including AT&T Inc., Ford Motor Co. , Procter & Gamble Co.
and Universal Pictures already signed up. Some will insert video ads into the content while others will sponsor shows, with the idea of tailoring commercials to the Internet experience.

Disney is also launching a high-speed Internet channel for soap opera fans, called Soapnetic, on April 17 for subscribers to Verizon Communications Corp.'s Internet services.

Sweeney said the network was keen on bringing in more viewers under the age of 27. These are what some marketers have dubbed the millennial generation of consumers, who are at ease with technology and often use several media outlets at the same time.

ABC said it would also explore ways to bring its local broadcast affiliates into online offerings.

Participants at the convention, sponsored by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, asked whether ABC's trial would threaten U.S. cable operators that have linked up with the networks to charge for on-demand viewing of such shows.

But cable executives said they viewed it as part of the entire industry's effort to capture new audiences amid fiercer competition with the Internet, video games and digital downloads.

The idea is to find a way to make the pie bigger, said Brian Roberts, chief executive of Comcast Corp. , the top U.S. cable operator.

Disney shares rose 44 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $27.97 in midday New York Stock Exchange trading.