Disney is gearing up for online TV future, says Disney and ABC Television Group president Anne Sweeney

Disney is gearing up its broadcast business for a future dominated by online TV streaming, according to president of Disney/ABC Television Group and co-chair of Disney Media Networks Anne Sweeney.

Keynote: Sweeney spoke of Disney's digital plans

Delivering the opening keynote speech at the Financial Times Digital Media Conference in London, Sweeney said the company would continue to evolve its range of apps in a bid to make them “the single destination” for customers to view TV, and said a “groundbreaking” deal with US satellite provider Dish Network sealed a couple of weeks ago would further its digital plans.

“In addition to providing Dish customers with access to our content across multiple devices, this deal offers for the first time ever a pay TV provider the rights to stream clear, linear video-on-demand content as part of its internet delivered, IP-based personal subscription service.

“This deal sets the table for the next generation era of digital TV delivery by giving Dish the chance to work with other content providers to eventually offer a digital only package. With this first of its kind deal we’re planning the changes we believe are coming to our industry.”

While pay TV providers like Dish, Comcast, Verizon and others already allow their users to stream content on multiple devices, the deal marks the first time a provider will offer access to Disney’s channels without the requirement to subscribe to the video portion of their cable or satellite subscription.

Sweeney said that mobile devices had become a gamechanger and that the consumption of TV and media by digital natives was markedly different.

“Seven out of 10 kids aged two to 14 use app-capable devices like tablets and phones,” she continued. “Three out of four US kids under the age of eight use smart devices, and more than a third of US kids under two have used a smart device. Kids have come to think of TV as something they carry around with them. Parents meanwhile, like having access to on-demand entertainment.”

Subsequently, Disney has been investing money and resources into creating the digital base of the business and developing services such as an app for its ABC broadcast business.

“Last year we became the first and only US broadcast network to offer live streams of shows in the US with our Watch ABC app,” Sweeney said. “We envisioned that we wanted to see all of the live TV delivered to the internet, both live and on demand, to be highly targeted on every device possible.

“We’ll continue to evolve our Watch family of apps in the US to be being integrated, immersive, personal and shared experience. We want them to be the single destination for viewers to do everything they love to do around TV.”

To that end, Disney launched the ABC TV on-demand service in the UK with BT Vision in 2010, a service which is now known as ABC Studios on Demand and had moved into 17 markets in EMEA across 31 platforms.

In other firsts for the company, a deal was made with BskyB last year to create a co-branded pay TV channel, Sky Movies Disney, marking the first time Disney had ever been involved in a co-branded linear movie channel anywhere in the world.

“We believe it’s a template for the future,” Sweeney said.

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