In a Mipcom keynote conversation, Disney/ABC boss Anne Sweeney said that technology, and Disney/ABC’s advances with it, made all the difference during her tenure at the media conglom. During her time on stage at the Palais here in Cannes the exiting executive, who is leaving Disney/ABC at the end of her contract in January, mentioned that she is plunging into TV directing workshops as part of her life creed “Do what scares you the most.”
While the linear channels are still a viable means to reach audiences, especially during big events such as the Oscars, Sweeney mentioned that she saw very early on the difference such platforms as Netflix, iTunes made in terms of reaching every consumer, everywhere. “Disney was the first to put its content on Netflix,” said Sweeney. She also recalled the time when Apple’s Steve Jobs walked into the Disney offices with the video iPod, and the impression it made on her as she was an avid watcher of Lost. The fact that she could now watch Lost anywhere, on the go, was a big deal.
The resonance of ABC’s shows have been built on aggressive social media campaigns: Not only do viewers tweet with Scandal and Once Upon a Time castmembers while the shows are airing, but engage with the characters’ avatars as well on Twitter. Sweeney remembered one of the first times she witnessed the power of Twitter was with Pretty Little Liars executive producer I. Marlene King at an event. Sweeney and King were set to converse onstage. King tweeted out a message to fans just before walking on, and was trending immediately.
However, the big A-HA moment for Sweeney with technology at Disney/ABC was the time she championed an early launch date for ABC’s Watch App. Originally, the App was set to drop in May of this year, however, Sweeney felt the company would be left behind if they weren’t at the forefront. Focus groups with Disney Junior viewers showed that kids would watch the App on the iPad with their sibling, right in front of a big screen TV, because “they liked to cuddle” said Sweeney. Meaning, the App fostered a family intimacy to viewing Disney product. The App launched in 2013 in time for the May upfronts that year. “We finished 20 minutes before our deadline in May, and not only were we early, but the App worked. And I know it worked because (Walt Disney chairman/CEO) Bob Iger was in a cab and would call me saying ‘It’s working from the west side, it’s working from the east side.’ The App inspired a moment of change in the industry.”