CANNES, France – Where will Ben Sherwood take Disney-ABC TV? One answer: abroad. Another: further into the digital realm.
Sherwood, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of the Disney-ABC Television Group, hinted at the new directions for his company in his Media Mastermind keynote address at Mipcom on Tuesday.
He expounded on the huge growth of the digital market in a speech that was delivered without notes and filled with fun facts.
“More people around the world own a mobile phone than a toothbrush,” Sherwood said. “More video is uploaded on YouTube in a 60-day period than the three major U.S. TV networks created in their first 60 years.”
ABC Studios is excited about the possibilities of creating more online content and intends “to develop and produce more original local content” around the world, Sherwood said. To that end, the company moved executive Keli Lee to London to head up ABC Studios International.
“Like you, we believe the potential of video is great and growing. We know that by 2020 there will be 6 billion smart phones. We know that 4.2 billion people will be connected to the internet and we look forward to seizing that opportunity,” Sherwood noted.
“The international market is very important to us and in fact over the last decade we have seen international revenues double.” he added, calling ABC Studios “a huge growth engine.”
Disney-ABC is already the biggest TV company in the world in terms of investment; it employs more than 10,000 people and makes 24,000 hours of TV every year. In its push to be even more global, Sherwood reminded the audience of a piece of company lore.
There once was a family, he said, from a small town in Normandy who emigrated to England, then Canada, and ended up settling in Missouri. “All the time they traveled, they carried a pride in their French ancestry and surname. They were ‘from Isigny,’ abbreviated ‘d’Isigny’ – in short, Disney,” Sherwood said.
“That story is true,” he added, then quipped: “And if not, we might have made it up to ingratiate ourselves to the French.”
Disney-ABC has more than just a business impact, Sherwood suggested. “Today, everywhere we turn we face profound challenge and uncertainty, and certainly disruption around the world,” he said, citing the recent terrorist attacks that have struck France.
“In my home country, the United States, the tumultuous elections reflect these complicated times. There is so much talk about building borders and walls. We believe as storytellers that we would do well to remember our global heritage and traditions. We should remember that we are not just Disney, we are d’Isigny,” and that “the unifying power of great storytelling” can create “connections and understanding,” Sherwood said.
“We love that there are women in Latin America who now see themselves in the pantheon of Disney princesses and inspire themselves to be just as strong, and just as smart and as funny as Disney Channel’s new Elena of Avelor,” said Sherwood.
He also had praise for Shonda Rhimes, Mipcom Personality of the Year, who has worked closely with Disney-ABC. “By the end of this year, she and her team will have delivered more than 588 episodes of TV around the world. Into more than 300 million homes across 250 territories across 67 languages,” Sherwood said.
He quipped: “Even president Obama has said that ‘Beyonce may run the world, but Shonda Rhimes owns Thursday night.’”