Digital Leadership Awards: Disney's Albert Cheng

Feeding a Media Giant’s Startup Mentality

Albert Cheng works for one of the largest media conglomerates in the world but his digital media group operates more like an entrepreneurial start-up, which enables the company to act and react to market demands and technological advances much quicker than Disney’s size and scope would suggest.

Cheng’s team envisioned, created and launched the first service that enabled authenticated users access to both live, linear network streams and on-demand episodes on iPad tablets, which by itself would be enough to earn him a Digital Leadership Award. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to being the first out of the gate for Cheng and his crew.

Disney was also the first network to offer full episodes on iTunes in 2005; the first to offer full episodes on demand on a mobile platform with Sprint 2007; the first to stream episodes online in true 720p high definition; and the first to offer expert and user commentary with full episodes online in 2009.      

In addition to creating the first network to offer full episodes of Disney shows online, Cheng and his team developed an iPad app for its shows in record time.

“We were all watching the launch of the iPad in our offices in February 2010,” he said. “We had this idea at the time that we should make our programming available on that platform. We launched our iPad app five weeks later in April. Everything was designed and implemented by our group.”

Prior to his current role, Cheng served as senior vice president, business strategy and development for Disney and ESPN Networks affiliate sales and marketing, where he was responsible for developing business strategies to increase distribution and generate revenue streams from new products and services. He also oversaw the development of interactive products related to Disney-ABC Cable Networks Group’s cable channels, which include ABC Family, Disney Channel, SOAPnet and Toon Disney. Before joining the Disney family, Cheng was with Fox Cable Networks Group as director of distribution strategy.

“For the last eight years, my role has primarily been to remain focused on consumers and how technology is changing their perceptions and expectations,” Cheng said. “We know we need to be available in as many ways as possible. And that includes not just watching TV. It’s the whole experience. I believe there’s going to be more personalization. No one wants to fight their TV. We’re still in the early stages of consumer and education in terms of TV Everywhere. Consumers don’t want to understand our business. They just want it to work. And how we communicate the value of TV Everywhere is so important.”