Sweeney: Disney ready for breakthroughs
By Andrew Wallenstein The Hollywood Reporter
Disney-ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney stressed the need to embrace change during the keynote session of the DEMXPO Digital Entertainment and Media conference Wednesday in Los Angeles.
"I think the beauty of the company is that we love chaos," Sweeney said during the morning Q&A session with Robert J. Dowling, editor-in-chief and publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, that opened the two-day conference at the Century Plaza Hotel.
The disruptive effects of new media technologies was the dominant theme in their wide-ranging discussion, which touched on the Walt Disney Co.'s recent deals to put branded TV programming on new platforms including Apple's iPod and Verizon's V Cast mobile phone.
Sweeney, who is also co-chairman of Disney's Media Networks division, noted that Disney was prepared for bold breakthroughs like the iPod deal, which put ABC series including "Lost" on the popular device, because of its long history of experimentation. She cited the conversion of the Disney Channel from premium to basic cable and the formation of Disney's Zoog brand in the online space as examples.
"We actually have been in training for this moment for the past 10 years," she said.
Sweeney held the iPod experiment as an opportunity to research new-media consumption habits, noting that different programs may be conducive to different platforms. "The same technology may not work for 'Lost' and [Disney Channel's] 'That's So Raven,'" she said.
While she had high praise for Disney's foray into new platforms, she emphasized the primacy of the ABC network in driving the direction of the programming. She singled out the marketing campaign that introduced "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" as the way Disney needs to launch all of its programming in the future.
"The message was clean and clear," Sweeney said. "It helps the viewer to navigate to the show."
Sweeney also spoke of the importance in evolving the relationship between Disney's TV properties and the advertisers. "We are engaged with them in figuring out what their future is," she said. "We need to find new ways of working with them."