During this year’s USC’s Institute on Entertainment Law and Business, Disney/ABC TV President Ben Sherwood spoke with entertainment lawyer Bruce Ramer of Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown about a variety of topics including the future of TV, the departure of Shonda Rhimes from ABC, and, of course, the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal that has been consuming the industry as of late.
Although he didn’t mention Weinstein directly, Sherwood applauds women that have come forward and mentions that there is a problem with the imbalance of power between men and women in the industry that shouldn’t be allowed to occur and “needs to be addressed seriously.” He adds, “At the Walt Disney Company, the values of the company are focused on preventing and dealing with these types of issues.”
In regards to TV super-producer Shonda Rhimes parting ways with ABC, Sherwood is supportive and insists that ABC will always be Shonda’s home. He said, “In fact, she’s told me, told my colleagues, that she hopes Grey’s Anatomy runs as long as General Hospital does — for another 40 years and beyond.”
Rhimes’ departure from ABC for an overall deal with Netflix leads into Sherwood’s thoughts on the current state of TV. With numerous streaming services and different platforms for content, Sherwood isn’t a stranger to the changing landscape considering Disney holds stake in Hulu. In fact, he seems to be embracing the evolution of the TV business and how audiences consume content. He says that he doesn’t see Netflix as a friend or a foe and considers them a “valued customer.”
Even though he has his finger on the pulse of digital, Sherwood hasn’t abandoned traditional television. “Broadcast TV is still the only way into 125 million homes,” he said. He points out that people still watch over five hours of video per day and says that ABC has its “fair share” of that time and that networks TV shows still draw large audiences and are popular on streaming platforms.