TV Industry Switches Idea of Viewership

18/05/2012 New York City

At Disney, broadcast viewership today is measured “across all screens,” says Anne Sweeney, Group President of Disney/ABC Television Group.  Declining TV viewership is not a concern since it is being offset by a growing number of viewers on platforms, such as tablets and mobile devices.

“We’ve been working with Nielsen to ensure we have truly accurate measurements,” said Sweeney, who was interviewed this week by Alan Murray at the WSJ Executive Breakfast Series, sponsored by IESE Business School and BCG.

The company now looks at viewership “holistically,” she said. Disney has numerous content engines producing both scripted and unscripted content through the Disney channel portfolio, ESPN and ABC that is seen on a variety of screens.

“So I actually see a very bright future,” she said.

Today’s highly media environment, with live digital streaming on the internet, is just another new phase of competition for Disney, she said. “We’ve always had a lot competition – we’ve always competed with people’s leisure time and activities, we’ve competed with video games.”

“Quite frankly, I love competition,” she said. “I think it’s the healthiest thing for our industry, to have other people doing great work out there.”

What will continue to set Disney apart are its strong brands, such as Disney, ABC, ESPN and Marvel, she said. “We have tremendous amount of strength in those brands.” At the same time, the company will also have to keep offering content that is relevant to audiences.

Sweeney said her very simple definition of a brand is “the relationship you have with your consumer.” And that relationship, she continued, “has to be as important, as relevant and as current as the relationship you have with your family and your friends.”

She also discussed Disney’s recent agreement with Comcast Cable Systems, which boosts Disney’s capacity to offer more live programming through multiple devices. The agreement has not only expanded the scope and opportunities of both companies, but also highlighted the need to be fast and nimble for customers.