From the 4A's Media Confab

One Thing Matters in a Fragmenting Landscape: Content

Disney-ABC's Anne Sweeney on the Media World's Only Constant

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ORLANDO, Fla. ( --- The theme of this year's 4A's annual Media Conference and Trade Show, "Digital changes everything," is slightly flawed, because there is one constant in the media business: content.

That's according Anne Sweeney, president of Disney-ABC Television Group. "The one constant, the one thing that never changes is the demand and the need for great content," she said here yesterday.
Anne Sweeney
Photo: Art Beaulieu

Anne Sweeney: Consumers will accept ads for free content.

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After listing some of the ways Disney-ABC is adapting its content to digital, through mobile episodes and video on demand, for instance, Ms. Sweeney made a case for the success of the company's online video offerings.

Online TV audience
People watched 140 million ad-supported episodes last year on's prime-time player, she said, and in the first 18 weeks of the new fall schedule, people watched more 124 million episodes, a 178% increase from same period last year.

And it's not just they are watching. According to a recent study by Solutions Research Group, 80 million people go online to watch TV shows, and 20% make it a weekly habit.

"This generation has a voracious appetite for entertainment, and they are more than happy to accept advertising to get it all for free," she said.

Ms. Sweeney also noted the high ad recall among viewers, who remember online video spots about 87% of the time.

The digital rules
She then gave a list of guidelines for negotiating the digital landscape. The first rule: Consumers come first. Marketers have to pay attention to what consumers want from their online experiences and what they are doing when they get there, so they can make advertising more relevant.

"Ad formats matter," Ms. Sweeney said, noting that trivia questions and multiple-choice ads frequently are more successful than repurposed TV commercials.

With consumers bombarded by thousands of messages each day, creativity is critical, Ms. Sweeney said. "We need to be more creative than ever to break though and stand out."

The last guideline: Marketers, agencies and media companies must be committed to change. "We can't rely on old models or follow old rules," she said. "The choice in the digital age isn't whether to adapt, it's whether to evolve or perish."
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