Carolyn Schuk /
01.20.2009 03:02 PM
Disney’s Sweeney says content follows platforms, functionality

A woman whose career story includes such shows as “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Hanna Montana” knows about great content, versatile platforms and how to push content out over them, as well as how platforms push back. “She understands that when content creation and device makers work together, consumers benefit,” said CEA President Gary Shapiro.

Sweeney looks at the content consumer first, and at herself. Key to what consumers will watch is the user interface. “The best content on TV today” reflects “value, usefulness and relevance,” Sweeney said. Unlike the old idea of television, a static object that sits in the living room, it now follows people on a multitude of platforms.

“It’s no longer about [being] the first,” Sweeney said, when it comes to the platforms viewers use. “It’s about the best.” Considering television, its ease of use was hard to beat — you plugged it in, turned it on and turned one dial to change channels. If your old television had required 17 navigation steps and constantly dropped the signal, it wouldn’t have survived.

The new technology that achieves that simplicity and reliability should be the one content providers look for, because it’s the one viewers will follow. And advertising follows that content across all the platforms as well, changing how its impact and costs move.

So what do viewers want? Time-shifting as well as place-shifting. Content has to be both physically and temporally mobile to be useful. Content can’t be just high quality; it has to be nimble in following viewers’ schedules and geographic itineraries.

Sweeney also pointed out that personalizing people’s methods and patterns of content consumption just seems to increase their demand for it.

Content creators can and do make great content. But more importantly, what the platforms let them do shapes the kinds of content creators can make — mash-ups on YouTube, interactive engagement with favorite shows, polling, games. Who watches it and how it’s watched also creates answering demands from viewers that push creators in new directions too.

Can there be too much of a good thing? Sweeney’s view is, not yet. This proliferation of entertainment across time, space, platforms and activities just seems to increase people’s demand for it: In a media-tech environment that's richer than ever, one effect is that people watch more plain old television every year. All forms feed each other.

See Anne Sweeney’s speech at

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