Jay Rasulo isn’t as sure as Viacom CEO Philipe Dauman is that we’ll see an online pay TV service in 2014. But one “is coming” he said today at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference — and Disney would be “happy to license our content.” Here’s the catch though: It would have to license content from others, too, and “look like existing [cable and satellite] offers” that require viewers to pay for channels they don’t watch. “We believe that the [pay TV] system is still the most valuable way the product can be offered to the consumer,” Rasulo says. The system also works well for Disney. The growth of pay TV retransmission consent payments “have been a huge boon” to the industry, They also have added about $500M to Disney’s revenues over the last few years and “have mostly fallen to the bottom line.” On another broadcast matter, Rasulo is less certain than CBS chief Les Moonves is that the industry will sell most ads next year on the basis of viewing over seven days as opposed to the current three. “The hesitation has to do more with the advertiser side than the content producer side.” Like other execs, though, Rasulo is excited about opportunities to offer TV content on smartphones and tablets. He calls mobile “the single largest” technology opportunity.
The Disney CFO says he’s confident about ESPN’s dominant position in sports TV, despite the entry of rivals including Fox Sports 1. ESPN has grown since FS1 launched this year. Even so, Disney’s sports network plans to negotiate hard for the next round of NBA rights. It’s “the last piece of major sports content that ESPN has to acquire for the long term future.” Despite some talk about the possibility of splitting up the package, he says he thinks ESPN “will wind up with it” — adding that “the exact form I can’t predict.”
Rasulo also talked up Disney’s theme parks including the development of Shanghai Disney, Avatar Land, Disney Springs shopping, and the MyMagic+ wrist bands which provide electronic entry passes. Although the bands are controversial — they can track where visitors go — Rasulo says the experience “has been extremely good for people using the product.” They encourage people to plan ahead. “The earlier guests plan their visits to Walt Disney World, the longer they stay with us….It’s very early days on the economics but we’re very happy with what we see.”