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'Lost' helps Disney honcho find new path

Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney's Media Networks division, says audiences want more than good content.  She plans to expand internationally and develop new media platforms.

ABC is on a ratings roll fueled by hit shows like "Grey's Anatomy,” "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives," but Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney's Media Networks division says the audience wants more than good content.

“They want our content wherever they are, whenever they want it, on whatever device is handy for them. It's really up to us to make sure that we're able to provide it,” said Sweeney.

Dubbed the most powerful woman in Hollywood by the industry's leading trade magazine, Sweeney oversees Disney's television business around the world. Her job ranges from pushing the Disney Channel into foreign markets to pushing ABC shows on iPods and the Internet.

"The television network remains the primary platform, and our view of everything that we do surrounding that platform is that it is additive to our core business,” said Sweeney.

"We've seen, for example, with "Lost," that putting it in the iTunes store and creating all this excitement around it has only enhanced its popularity," she said. "Ratings are up year after year. Of course, 'Lost' is a fantastic show, but I think it has also benefited from the number of ways consumers can experience it. Also, being first to push the media envelope speaks volumes about Bob Iger and the Walt Disney Co."

Disney chief executive Bob Iger has given Sweeney and other senior executives at the company three marching orders: create compelling content, expand internationally and develop new media platforms. Sweeney is pursuing all three objectives, but she says it all starts with serving the audience.

“The big message I give to the troops, not on a daily but an hourly basis, is to pay close attention to our viewers. Know them, understand them, find out where they're going for their content, and if we understand them well, we will make the right decisions in new media and in the type of content that we produce," she said.

So far, Anne Sweeney has made the right decisions in both new media and content, and that's put Disney at the forefront of the television right now.

The challenge will be to keep the company there.