Iger Eyes Alternative Platforms

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Carlsbad, Calif. -- The Walt Disney Co. CEO Robert Iger reflected that it “seemed silly” to confine content to traditional platforms when customers were going digital.

That viewpoint led to the company’s aggressive move to stream TV shows via ABC’s Web site (abc.go.com).

Disney announced in early May that four of the ABC Television Network’s station affiliates agreed to take part in a video-streaming test in which primetime hits such as Lost will be offered free-of-charge on the Internet.

ESPN has made content available via streaming, as well, including an ESPN Full Circle: NBA Playoffs contest in April pitting the National Basketball Association’s Chicago Bulls against the Miami Heat, during which a live streaming-video feed was made available via broadband service ESPN360.

In addition, all 52 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup matches ESPN and ESPN2 will televise from Germany, scheduled from June 9-July 9, will appear on ESPN360.

However, during a panel at April’s National Show in Atlanta, Time Warner Cable executive vice president of programming Fred Dressler questioned why Disney expects to be paid retransmission consent for its ABC stations when it will be giving away hit primetime content from those broadcast outlets over a company Web site.

Nonetheless, the media company will move deliberately into new digital venues, especially with its ESPN and core Disney brands, he said.

“We don’t see ESPN streaming 24/7,” Iger added, due to affiliate agreements with cable operators and satellite carriers. He stressed that companies “won’t see just one distribution model,” but rather will adopt a “blend of models.”

The brands themselves will become more important as the “environment becomes more fragmented,” Iger said during his comments at the “D: All Things Digital” conference here.

“The industry has largely missed the fact that technology has empowered the consumer,” Iger said, as further explanation of Disney’s decision to stream and upload programs for Apple Computer Inc.’s “iPod” and other platforms. “We have to pay attention to that. The music industry did not pay enough attention.”

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