Unifying previously separate upfront events for ABC and ESPN, and adding in the assets acquired from Fox and a sprinkling of streaming mentions, Disney filled two theaters with media buyers and played the hits (both verifiable and aspirational).
Business-wise, the presentation at Lincoln Center wasn’t bursting with new news — hardly surprise given the morning’s head-snapper of Disney buying out Comcast’s stake in Hulu to take full operational control of the service.
“Of all of these developments, the power of the advertising portfolio that we have brought together might be the most exciting thing of all,” said Kevin Mayer, head of direct-to-consumer and international, who kicked off the presentation. “Today reflects that excitement. You’re seeing the company’s first presentation of the full suite of ad-supported platforms in one unified event.”
Mayer noted recent shifts in the company’s approach to advertising. Rita Ferro was given the reins of all broadcast, cable and digital in a reorganization last year. Technology and content distribution joined advertising in Mayer’s division. “The changes that we’ve made allow us to sell the way you want to buy,” he said. “In this era of unbelievable choice, brands matter more than ever. And we have the best.”
As Mayer gave a roll-call of the ad-supported brands, tiles were added to the big screen behind him.
Ferro amplified the core theme that the company has the scale and the IP to compete with anyone. “There is immense transformation happening in our industry,” she said. “What matters now is the relationship with the consumer. … It all comes down to giving consumers more choice.”
About 145 million viewers of Disney content per month are viewing on digital platforms, Ferro said, with 62% of millennials in the fold.
The ACC Network, which launches August 22, got a shoutout. College-based networks, such as ESPN’s successful venture with the SEC conference, are considered resilient investments even in a world that wants slimmer offerings of channels.