The Disney & IRTS 2008 Digital Media Summit, Part 1
For those waiting for part 4 of the Malawian media consumption saga, I promise itâ€™s coming. In the meantime, though, I wanted to write about the 2008 Disney and International Radio and Television Society Foundationâ€™s Digital Media Summit in Burbank, CA. This was a three day event that I attended last week. In this post, Iâ€™ll set the thing up and give some data about Disneyâ€™s online Full Episode Player. In the next, Iâ€™ll list some random things overheard, and Iâ€™ll yabber on about the hazy line between promotion and creativity.
Granted, at times I felt like I was in a cult indoctrination program, with some insisting that Disney was the only true source for all that is good on this planet. However, it was also a fantastic opportunity if not to see behind the curtain, at least to be allowed into the front row, where peeks behind the curtain were possible. I met some tremendously helpful individuals whose brains I picked with joy. I finally got on a TV set (take that, Bob Rehak! Sorry to anyone not at MITâ€™s MiT5 conference: an inside joke there). I got a bunch of data. I saw some cool new tech toys. I met Damon Lindelof and got an Apollo candybar t-shirt. I got fed well. I got to hang out with Jenn Holt and Kevin Sandler. And as much as cynical Jonathan could gripe, Iâ€™m very thankful for the experience, and applaud Disney and IRTS for shelling out the time and money to produce the thing.
More after the fold â€¦
Context: What Was It, Why Was It?
Before I get to what was said, I should start with some context, and an explanation of the conference. When I applied, I thought it was NATPE-like, an industry conference with a few lone academics with differently colored nametags that marked us as evil. When I got there, though, it was just 40-60 academics and the Disney folk. Panels would usually run 2 hours, with the first hour an open chat by 7-10 Disney staffers, usually accompanied by sizzle reels and sometimes with Q&A from the crowd, then a break, and then each panelist would sit at a table with the 7-8 of the academics and submit to questioning. The panelists were a hodge-podge mix of new, young execs, alongside higher level folk, from across Disneyâ€™s television and new media divisions. Many were on the branding/promotional side of the business, so many conversations were about monetization and business hoops, less about the creative aspects.
Why did Disney do this? A key purpose was clearly to tap into us as pipelines for the interns or workers of tomorrow. Many panelists took the approach of telling us what our students should know to get jobs. And many of the academics there taught production, so they wanted to know this too. Critical cultural studies folk were a minority, which also meant that impertinent questions were non-existent. But to be fair to Disney and to the individuals there, some staffers clearly saw it as a chance for dialogue, and a majority of them placed themselves in the academicsâ€™ hands during the breakout sessions, answering whatever we asked, and thereby ensuring that there was a good faith give-and-take.
Stat Fest: Disneyâ€™s Full Episode Player
Mike Mellon, Senior VP, Research at ABC Television, alongside M.K. Haley, Director, Product Development, Digital Media at Disney ABC Television presented a bevy of usage stats regarding new media.
The first set were all to do with ABCâ€™s Full Episode Player (FEP), which has all of the ABC shows produced by Disney with 3 exceptions (they didnâ€™t say which). Here we go:
- the average number of episodes watched = 6.72 of Greyâ€™s Anatomy, 6.02 of Desperate Housewives, 5.83 of Lost, and 3.95 of Ugly Betty
- the median age of the FEP audience is 32, versus the broadcast television median age of about 50. 17% are over 50, the rest under
- 77% of the users are female
- 53% are college graduates
- the userâ€™s mean yearly income is $69,000
- the South makes more use of the FEP than any other region (see, Evangelicals love Ugly Betty too)
- 56% are employed full-time
- 9% are divorced (leading Disney to joke that their shows keep couples together)
- 4 out of 5 users have a better opinion of ABC after watching (the other 1 out of 5 watched Greyâ€™s Anatomy, and want that 45 minutes of their lives back?)
- 3 out of 4 choose to watch because they missed it on broadcast television
- almost 40% are rewatching after seeing it on broadcast television
- 7% who watch online donâ€™t own a television
- in 2006-07, they had 141,111,151 total episode starts, 261 Million through June 2008
- in 2006-07, Greyâ€™s, Lost, Betty, and Housewives were responsible for 2/3 of all starts
- total FEP time viewed in 2006-07 was 2.5B mins (42.3M hours, or 1.76M days)
- they didnâ€™t list one, but my calculator suggests that this means the average viewing period was 17 mins
- peak usage is 9-10pm
- unlike ABC primetime, where Thursday and Sunday get the most viewers, peak usage is on Friday nights
- comparing FEP and DVR stats, I struggled to understand the stats, so wonâ€™t try to reprint, since I may explain them incorrectly, but the gist was that DVRs get considerably more viewers than the FEP still
The collection of these stats clearly comforted Disney that the FEP works as a brand extension, not as a â€œcannibalâ€ that stole audiences away from broadcast. They also talked of the FEP as helping them not to lose fans, especially for shows like Lost, where missing an episode might otherwise lead to some viewer attrition, as viewers fall behind.
Another interesting stat they shared is that it can take only 17 minutes for a viewer to get an episode online, in high-def, with no commercials, and with subtitles, following the broadcast. So they clearly see the FEP as a way to try and fight off the pirates, and beat them to the punch.Tags: Desperate Housewives, Digital Media Summit, Disney, Full Episode Player, Grey's Anatomy, Lost, Ugly Betty