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MIPCOM: Sweeney Accepts Personality of the Year Award

Six years after a MIPCOM speech in 2005 stressing the importance of digital media and announcing that ABC would be making episodes available on iTunes, Disney Media Networks co-chair and Disney-ABC president Anne Sweeney returned to the market to accept the MIPCOM 2011 Personality of the Year award and to deliver a keynote reaffirming the importance of digital media for Disney's future.

Sweeney noted that when she last spoke at MIPCOM, a lot of people were worried about the future of television in a digital world. "Some were urging caution, uneasy about risking the status quo for an uncertain future," she recalled.

Since then, however, the company's aggressive push to supply more content onto more digital platforms has opened up many new opportunities, she argued.

"We've leveraged technology to create new ways to give viewers what they want while protecting our content from piracy and generating additional revenue," she argued, later adding that "digital technology didn't 'disrupt' our business -- it transformed it."

During the keynote, Sweeney highlighted a number of ways that digital media has transformed their business, from the process of producing content to its distribution to broadcasters and consumers, with personalized content delivery playing an increasingly important role.

Despite the widespread adoption of digital technologies around the world, Sweeney noted that TV viewing continued to rise. "This year people around the world will watch 140 million more hours of television than they did last year for a total of 4.5 trillion viewing hours," she noted. "Television -- from broadcast to broadband -- is now bigger than ever."

Meanwhile, demand for their programming in international markets has also grown, with their upcoming midseason show Missing already sold in over 80 territories.

At the same time, new digital platforms have opened up a number of new revenue opportunities.

"Following the success of our 'Hot from the U.S.' VOD platform -- which offers hit series to viewers around the world within 24 to 48 hours of the U.S. broadcast -- our London team created a new service -- called 'ABC TV On Demand,' she noted. "This latest innovation connects fans to full seasons of hit ABC Studios series like Grey's Anatomy and Criminal Minds on demand immediately following their local broadcast. The service has launched in the U.K., Portugal, and Germany so far -- to huge success -- and is coming soon to other markets."

Sweeney also stressed the importance of using digital technologies to deliver their programming faster to international broadcast clients. "We're putting our popular ABC Studios content on screens around the world within hours of its U.S. broadcasters -- and sometimes simultaneously -- instead of months later," she noted, a move that allows international viewers to see episodes before spoilers and plot summaries are posted online.

Looking forward, Sweeney stressed the importance of digital media in personalizing the delivery of content via apps, mobile devices and social media.

"Around the world, social networks will have more than a billion unique members by the end of this year -- and the majority of them will be sharing video content, including the short-form video content we provide to further engage our viewers," she noted. "This year alone, 52% of social network users in EMEA and Asia Pacific say they've watched a video that was shared by a friend, while 68% of the people on social networks in Latin America did the same."

"Every new opportunity we create for viewers creates new revenue streams for our businesses and for our partners around the world," she added.