Anne Sweeney called her first viewing of "Lost" on the iPod "spectacular," but the Disney Media Networks co-chair was left with one question following Apple chief Steve Job's groundbreaking presentation of the device's video capability to her and her boss, Disney CEO Bob Iger, several years ago.
"I forgot to ask him how he got a copy of 'Lost','" said Sweeney, producing laughs while speaking Wednesday at the Paley Center for Media International Council's forum Wednesday.
Sweeney, who also has the title of president of the Disney/ABC television group, began the afternoon session by recalling her unease in 2005 when the Paley Center's forum mashed content providers like herself with the tech leaders — who foreseeably would be sending television and film content out into a world of piracy and free downloading.
“Just all the animals in the zoo,” quipped Sweeney, “in this very small space debating the future.”
Several days later, Iger told her to expect a call from Jobs.
“Steve called and said, 'I have a new device, and I want to talk to you about putting some of ABC’s shows on it.'”
Jobs and his team flew down from Apple's Cupertino headquarters with a video iPod and a beta version of iTunes.
“I remember holding it in my hands,” said Sweeney, “watching an episode of `Lost’.” The show looked and sounded “spectacular”, recalls Sweeney, who had her eureka moment (where did he get a high-rez, digital copy of "Lost" in 2005?).
It was the start of a beautiful friendship, but before long as the iPod went forth with Disney/ABC content, “Steve called to say, 'You’re doing it all wrong.' You’re not talking about yourself the right way. You keep talking about content — you’re a content and technology company, and you better come to terms with that, better embrace that.’”
Soon thereafter, Sweeney’s head of digital R&D came in with a way of streaming video with advertising, and a new era was underway.
“We have 12 patents pending from that one moment,” Sweeney said
Sweeney also talked about her team's reliance of consumer tweets for instant audience feedback, and dodged a question about whether Disney and its partners might put Hulu up for sale. Meanwhile, asked for a five-year outlook, she cited what she called Disney's unofficial mantra: "We create what’s next."
Finally, Sweeney spoke of a lesson she learned from Jobs, who told her one of his favorite films is a training movie from McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, in which he said his proudest moment was creating a product that never saw the light of day.
“It’s being that great editor,” concluded Sweeney, knowing when to release something and when to hold back.
The Paley Center event, emphasizing international themes, continues over the next two days with live streaming available on the center’s site.