Viewers in the driving seat


In the Monday afternoon keynote address by Anne Sweeney, Co-Chair Disney Media Networks & President Disney-ABC Television, the message that came out loud and clear was that viewers have the upper hand in what, when and how they will watch their favourite television programmes.

Under the rather longwinded speech title, “The today and tomorrow of TV & the new entertainment consumer”, Sweeney sketched how the television viewing landscape had changed over the past few years due to the digital revolution. The one thing that had not changed was the absolute importance of content. Content is where television begins and it will continue to be so as consumers’ demands for control of their viewing reshape how broadcasters meet this challenge.

“It is an exciting time to be in television,” said Sweeney who in her role as president of ABC has seen the channel score global success with programmes such as a€˜Lost’ and a€˜Desperate Housewives’, amongst a score of others.

The power shift to the consumer changes the way entertain companies and broadcasters need to think about the television industry, their businesses and their viewers. Companies need to build their businesses around the behaviour, interests and demands of consumers. This serve to create “challenges but also new opportunities”, Sweeney said.

Sweeney revealed that Disney-ABC Television had decided to do battle with piracy, the scourge of the television and film business, on its own terms: low or no cost to watch, on demand and flexibility (some programmes are available in six different languages).

Her company is now allowing viewers to view their favourite programmes on demand on their computers at no cost other than the condition that they watch the advertisements. They discovered that an overwhelming percentage of viewers were favouring this option and that 87% recalled the advertiser that sponsored the episode. Research also revealed that people favoured programmes on the website because they often missed the TV broadcast. In cases where programmes were first screened on the website, like the new children’s show a€˜The Suite Life’, more kids were driven to watch it on the TV. “New platforms like and iTunes do not cannibalise each other either.”

Shows are made available two days after broadcast and in the case of Maxdome subscribers, viewers can see an episode seven days before it is aired.

“As more platforms develop, more content will be required but it will have to be content that the audience will want to see on any platform.”

Sweeney concluded by sharing Disney-ABC’s strategy for the future: 1) Great content 2) Explore new platforms 3) Sharpen brands/ rely on brands the audience trusts.


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