Sweeney steps into ring at NAB

Disney-ABC TV topper issues call to action

Disney-ABC Television topper Anne Sweeney addressed NAB on Tuesday in Las Vegas and came out swinging.

“Our industry is in the midst of a seismic shift,” she said. “Content is additive. We want to use technology to serve you better. Stop navigating by old landmarks. So we all end up where viewers are.”

 Her call to action stated that success will follow if the industry puts our viewers first. She reminded her audience of when the music industry put their interests ahead of their consumers. “They went elsewhere,” Sweeney said.

She spoke of an upcoming trial period this May and June when ABC.com will stream episodes of the ABC TV shows “Desperate Housewives,” “Commander and Chief,” “Lost,” and “Alias.”

During that period, the video streams would be free to viewers, but there would be three commercial breaks that could not be skipped. The site would be interactive as well with one of its features permitting viewers to select which spot they wanted to watch. Later this year, ABC.com will launch enhanced offerings based on what they learn during this trial time.

Sweeney declared that there are 79 million millenial consumers out there and they are techno savvy teens.”Evolve our business around them,” she advised. “The word broadcast has a new meaning. Need for flexibility to meet new challenges.”

Tuesday’s NAB TV panel focused on how content providers and distribution outlets are driving new business. Several traditional media companies presented methods that they are using to monetize the new distribution platforms including digital, mobile, and the web.

Larry Kramer, prexy CBS Digital Media, said, “We’re basically trying everything. To get on as many platforms as we can to see what consumer acceptance is.”

Kramer shared that his company streamed NCAA March Madness on the web for free this year. They achieved five million viewers and 25 million streams within a two week period.

“How many people were willing to go on the web to see essentially TV content,” he declared. “Scary. We were stunned at how well it worked,” adding, “It didn’t hurt TV ratings.”

Terry Macklin, exec veep for Hearst-Argyle Television, believes in building a business that would follow consumer trends.

“Digital created lots of opportunity for us. We agreed on criteria to define partnership.” He cautioned against doing everything at once saying, “When the mobile phone is ready for prime time, we’ll be ready for that as well.”

Ric Harris, exec veep, digital media and strategic marketing, NBC Universal Television Studios, conceded that it is easier for the network to distribute to the diverse platforms than at the station level.

” ‘ Battlestar Galactica’ and ‘Saturday Night Live’ worked well on the Internet,” Harris said. “It draws more heat around those programs. It’s been a good thing.”

For Susana Schuler, veep of news at Raycom Media, its about changing people’s mind-set.

“We’re expanding our brand into all of these avenues. We’re replacing existing dollars. So we have to go to those newsrooms and get those people to change culture. It’s tough to manage change.”