Client spotlight: Disney/ABC Television Group

What does it take for a traditional TV network to break with tradition — and thrive in the process?

Faced with a new generation of viewers demanding round-the-clock, mobile access to their favorite programming, traditional networks stand at a crossroads. They can either resist the trend, or they can do as Disney/ABC Television has done: embrace it.

With its WATCH ABC app, Disney/ABC is responding to new paradigms in media consumption by making it easier for viewers to access their favorite programming. The app does this in two fundamental ways:

  1. Delivering live broadcasts from local ABC affiliates to any device
  2. Enabling on-demand streaming of recent episodes of any ABC series

According to Albert Cheng, Executive VP and Chief Product Officer for Disney/ABC Television Group, WATCH ABC is just the beginning. The way Albert sees it, the continued success of Disney/ABC depends on aligning content distribution with evolving viewer preferences — an objective that’s more attainable than ever thanks to the latest technologies.

To learn more about how Disney/ABC is expanding access to programming, we met with Albert Cheng himself. Following is a selection from our interview with him:

Verizon Digital Media Services: How is technology helping Disney/ABC create new viewing experiences?

Albert Cheng: Our primary objective is delivering the highest caliber video quality to viewers’ devices, and technology helps us do that. It’s also helping us enhance viewing experiences with interactive and personalized features.

How do we enable new social experiences during a live broadcast? How do we let people watch video whenever they want? Addressing these challenges requires sophisticated technology on the back end.

Verizon Digital Media Services: Looking ahead, what are some new innovations you see the network pursuing?

Albert: I think the next wave of innovation will involve managing the ecosystem of devices consumers are using. For example, content providers will have to consider how iPads, Apple TV, and cable services work together, how consumers use those devices, and what kinds of apps can bolster media brands on those disparate platforms.

Verizon Digital Media Services: Speaking of apps that bolster media brands, how are immersive apps and experiences already helping media companies grow?

Albert: If you can create an exceptional experience for viewers, you open up opportunities for sponsors and advertisers to reach them, too. Every time we come up with a new product, one of our biggest concerns is how it increases engagement. We find that helping consumers achieve something, like gain backstage access to the Oscars through our app, for example, increases engagement as well as monetization potential.

Ultimately, great experiences also expose viewers to more ads, so our advertising partners are interested in innovative applications as well. Again, technology enables us to deliver these new experiences.

Verizon Digital Media Services: What’s the cost of a poor user experience?

Albert: The consumer won’t use your app anymore. Apps that crash a lot have this effect. So do apps that are confusing to use. The consequences are extremely costly.

Verizon Digital Media Services: How is Verizon helping Disney/ABC optimize viewer experiences?

Albert: For one thing, Verizon helps us navigate the complexity of various devices, codes, and methods necessary to deliver our content. It streamlines the process tremendously and allows us to push our streams to all of the platforms viewers use.

The other piece Verizon helps with is creating a truly end-to-end solution. Connecting a traditional broadcast infrastructure to the digital ecosystem and enabling on-demand formats is a significant undertaking. Verizon plugs us in to a cloud-based system that recognizes our infrastructure and lets us dynamically distribute content via the Web. We’re in a world of transition, and Verizon is helping us bridge the gap remarkably quickly.

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