The television business has been in non-stop reinvention mode since Anne Sweeney was elevated in 2004 to the top TV job at Disney, overseeing its broadcast, production and cable operations (aside from ESPN). The past 12 months were no exception.
Sweeney and her lieutenants spent the better part of the year preparing for a mammoth renegotiation of its long-term channel carriage agreement with Time Warner Cable. This wasn’t just a big deal, but the most wide-ranging content agreement ever inked by the Mouse House. It broke ground in terms of the studio granting digital, video-on-demand rights to ABC, Disney and ESPN-branded programming.
“Over the last couple of years we have been thinking through the business model for ABC and thinking about it very differently than when I took on ABC six years ago,” Sweeney says. “We look at ourselves now as a content studio, and it’s important that we understand the power of the broadcast platform we have and the other platforms that have emerged over the last five years.”
ABC continues to be a big focus for Sweeney of late because the cable side of the Mouse’s empire has been doing so well. ABC Family ranks as such a success story for Disney that it was a no-brainer for Sweeney to tap the cabler’s prexy, Paul Lee, to head ABC Entertainment when the long-awaited exec shakeup at the Alphabet came down in July.
While her immediate focus shifts according to the demands of the business, Sweeney’s larger mandate is to keep her eye on the 20,000-foot view of the marketplace.
“I make sure waking up every morning to think about the big ideas that we’re pursuing as a company,” she says, “making sure our businesses are fully integrated and that we’re taking advantage of every opportunity that is out there.”