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Albert Cheng: Innovator's Industry Firsts Bear Fruit

B&C's 2012 Digital All-Stars

If being a digital all-star was
simply a matter of technical innovation,
Albert Cheng would easily make the cut
for this year’s roster. Since being names executive
VP and chief product officer at the
the Disney/ABC Television Group in 2005,
Cheng and his team have led Disney/ABC to
a number of industry firsts, including being
the first network to put full-length ad-supported
TV shows online and the first to put
full episodes on demand on mobile and the first to offer an iPad app with full-length, adsupported
network shows.

While those efforts have earned Cheng and
his team multiple Emmys, his inclusion on this
year’s list also reflects their success in helping
the company hone its business models for digital
distribution. Over time, that has led them
from pioneering experiments to transactional
models on iTunes to online advertising efforts
and, most recently, to a focus on TV Everywhere
deals that make
digital access either online
or on mobile devices
part of larger pay
TV deals. “We are super
honed in on the business
return of everything we
do,” Cheng says.

To that end, Disney/
ABC recently launched
Watch Disney Channel,
Watch Disney XD and
Watch Disney Junior
apps as part of its TV
Everywhere deal with
Comcast that will allow
the MSO’s subscribers access to linear network
streams and extensive on-demand content.

Cheng says that his group has maintained
a relentless focus on elegant user interfaces
and consumer needs that is evident in the
ABC Player, which is the
only TV network application
to make Apple’s
all-time list of the 25
most-downloaded free
iPad apps, as well as in
their successful secondscreen
Oscar Backstage
Pass app.

“Technology has to
solve a real issue that
consumers have, which
is why a lot of these second-
screen applications
are getting a lot of buzz
but not much traction
among consumers,” Cheng notes. “We have
learned that live events, like our Oscar app,
news and sports work well. But enhanced
TV experiences don’t work with every piece
of content.”