SAN JUAN — Spending $52.4 billion to acquire 21st Century Fox would be pretty transformational by anyone’s standards.
For Disney, the acquisition a year ago added to an already-broad portfolio of assets, and came right as the company was figuring out a direct-to-consumer SVOD strategy and learning to get to grips with a whole new world of advertising capabilities.
In this Beet Retreat interview with Janus Strategy & Insights president Howard Shimmel for Beet.TV, Disney’s SVP, Audience Solutions at Disney Advertising Sales, Laura Nelson, opens up on a big year for the Mouse.
“Disney, as a whole, is going through a huge transformation right now,” she said. “We have a ton of operational challenges because we are effectively still in the middle of reorganizing our whole company.
“We have multiple systems and multiple process, and we potentially may be inheriting new ones. So just trying to streamline and create a technology stack and a data stack that is unified across our company is going to take us some time. We’re behind some of the other larger publishers … who have already gone through that.”
Those changes are coming about including through combining ESPN and ABC ad sales efforts in a single division, led by Disney’s chairman of direct-to-consumer and international efforts Kevin Mayer. Nelson said: “We’ve actually changed the way the whole company is set up now so that there will be one group and on infrastructure that’s going to do that across sales and marketing.”
Nelson said a big part of the transformation involves growing a desire to be more transactional and automated in a data-driven way. She wants to eliminate friction in the ad sales process and believes automation can bring benefits for both buyer and seller.
But, despite fragmentation in how the industry is approaching that opportunity, Nelson is sceptical that a single industry platform can be achievable.
Nelson concedes Disney is arriving late to the idea of selling ads based on advanced audience data segments across different TV networks, in a way that makes it seamless for buyers.
For instance, Disney’s ABC is not a member of OpenAP, the joint Turner/Fox/ Viacom initiative to normalize consumer identity attribute descriptions, which was also joined by NBCU, though of course 21st Century Fox’s Fox Networks Group is plugged in.
But she also questioned whether such an opportunity can work when who is paying for it isn’t necessarily clear.
Nelson says she aims to unify consumer data sets including ESPN sports affinities, Disney lookalike models, theme parks, Disney gamers and, later, digital viewing.
“A lot of different divisions – from the film studio to ABC Television – have been doing it their own way,” she says.
“I think really bringing all the processes together, being uniform, and not having people create their own ideas is going to be more beneficial.”
This video was produced in San Juan, Puerto Rico at the Beet.TV executive retreat. Please find more videos from the series on this page.
The Beet Retreat was presented by NCC along with Amobee, Dish Media, Oath and Google.