Disney Says Advertisers Embrace TV Shows on Web
Walt Disney Co. executives Thursday said advertisers and local affiliate television stations were embracing the concept of television shows on the Internet, and that the company aims to increase its reach into nontraditional viewing.
Anne Sweeney, co-chair of Disney Media Networks, told an investor conference that Disney's ABC Television Network's ad-supported broadband player, which allows viewers to watch episodes of prime time shows on the Internet, sold out its advertising space for the first and second quarters of this year.
The network has secured commitments from 80 percent of ABC affiliates – many of which originally were fearful that the player would cut into local ad revenue – that want to incorporate local ads into the Web programming.
Programming on the player will be expanded to include national news and local content later this year. The player will be upgraded to allow viewers to adjust the picture size and bandwidth. The broadband player has received requests for more than 50 million episodes since September.
This summer, ABC.com also will launch an expanded site for "America's Funniest Home Videos" to allow viewers to upload their own home videos and search among those videos and others featured on the show, Sweeney said in remarks monitored by Webcast.
Sports cable network ESPN will relaunch its wireless content package, Mobile ESPN, on the Verizon Wireless network, and will create a new channel for wireless television offered through MediaFLO USA Inc, a subsidiary of Qualcomm Inc., the company said.
Disney took a $30 million charge last year when it shut down Mobile ESPN. The new wireless TV channel will be called ESPN Mobile TV, and it will offer live, simulcast sports events, sports news, commentary and real time sports scores and game updates.
Chief Executive Robert Iger said he has "refined" his message over the 18 months since he became CEO but still was focused on becoming "platform aggressive" and reaching out to consumers through the Internet.
"We are using technology in a very pro-consumer way," Iger said. "We have to use it to . . . move product to the consumer on a well-timed, well-priced basis," he said, citing Disney's deal last year to sell ABC TV shows and Disney movies on Apple Inc.'s iTunes store as "a perfect example."
"We think it is increasing the pie of media consumption" rather than cutting into TV ratings or DVD sales, he added.
To compete in a "deeply multicultural world," the company is "talking about planting ourselves on the ground in those markets and making Disney content in those markets for those markets," Iger said.
To capitalize on a better return on Disney-branded content, compared with non-Disney content, the company renamed some of its businesses to help consumers find it among increasing marketplace clutter, he said.
The company also recast Buena Vista Games as Disney Interactive Studios and Touchstone Television studio, which makes the ABC hits "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy" and "Ugly Betty," was renamed "the ABC Television Studio."