Ben Sherwood and Bruce Rosenblum Explain New Revenue-Focused Role at Disney/ABC TV Group

Ben Sherwood - Bruce Rosenblum - Split - H - 2016
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"We've been in an ongoing conversation as we see rapid change in consumer behavior and consumption and in distribution and technology," says Sherwood.

In the half-year since Bruce Rosenblum departed Legendary, the veteran TV executive has been primarily focused on his pro bono work for the TV Academy. That changes on Monday, when he formally takes the reins as president of business operations at the Disney/ABC Television Group.

It's a departure for Rosenblum, who famously spent 26 years at Warner Bros. — and nearly a decade as president of the company's sprawling and lucrative TV Group. The shift over from the creative side of the industry sees him tasked with building revenue for Disney/ABC at a time when viewer consumption is changing on an almost monthly basis. Rosenblum, joined by his new boss, Disney Media Networks co-chairman and Disney/ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how he plans to tackle the job.

Bruce, are you going back to work the morning after the Emmys or are you taking a day off?

Rosenblum I've taken the last six months [off] since I left Legendary. (Laughs.) I'm fired up and ready to get back to work. I promised Ben I wouldn't stay at the HBO [Emmy] party for too long on Sunday night so I could get here for work by 8:30 on Monday morning.

How did this conversation start?

Rosenblum There wasn't really a pitch. I was having a lunch back in June with a recruiter to talk about some board opportunities. I wasn't looking to go back to work — but at the end of the lunch, I asked if he was working on any interesting searches. He told me about this opportunity, and I jumped across the table. I have always admired the Walt Disney Company. I've watched their success from about a mile and a half down the road for decades. They have a tremendous group of senior executives, from Ben on down, and their portfolio of assets can't be compared with any. This was the ideal job for me.

Sherwood We have been working for some time on this plan to make our organization more effective, more efficient and more focused on growth. We were looking internally and externally at a number of terrific candidates. I was flagged that Bruce had put his hand up and was interested. We hadn't actually had him on the radar for this role, so we met for a burger not far from the lot and started a conversation. That conversation carried on over the last two months and came together over the last few weeks. I think our shared desire is to grow our television business worldwide, make our organization faster, smarter and better. Bruce's proven track record as a leader and an innovative dealmaker and his interpersonal skills across the television and media world made us think he's the perfect leader for this moment at Disney/ABC. We've got a great team here, and Bruce will make us even better.

Bruce, what do you consider your mandate?

The fundamental core responsibility is making great content. Once that is made, what I see the responsibility being is maximizing revenue opportunities, finding efficient and effective ways of expanding existing revenue streams and finding new ones; with our great, existing executives, to expand distribution opportunities; to look toward the digital space and find more opportunity to connect more directly with the consumer — from both a programming and targeted advertising standpoint. Ideally, we want to create new direct-to-consumer digital platforms moving forward. I am not involved at all on the creative side. My charge is one of growing and expanding the business side of the Disney/ABC Television Group.

As the TV business model continues to shift, how do you view this role's priorities in terms of networks vs. studio and buying vs. selling?

Sherwood The way the job is organized, you have to boil it down to this: Bruce is going to run the revenue side of our business. That's ad sales, digital and distribution — both global and international. We're all involved in the constant conversation of the present and future of the television business. We read about the disrupters and the different challenges. Bruce has great experience wrestling with these challenges, and he also has a proven record of finding great opportunities.

Rosenblum I can hopefully bring a set of fresh eyes and added value, but this is not a new conversation. It's a continuation of one Ben and his team have been having for some time.

Sherwood I've been here for two years, and we've been in an ongoing conversation as we see rapid change in consumer behavior and consumption and in distribution and technology. Part of the emphasis of this role is to get ourselves even more focused on some of those key decisions and moving quickly. We think Bruce is going to help accelerate some of our work.

Rosenblum This company is so well positioned, from an asset diversity standpoint, to attack those challenges and take advantage of the opportunities and grow into the future.

Jointly overseeing ad sales, I'm wondering how you'd both like to see that narrative evolving one year or five years from now — in terms of capitalizing on multiplatform views and a more comprehensive measurement of how your content is being consumed?

Sherwood I'd like to see more revenue, more relevance for the consumer, new and creative advertising products for clients, and more data-driven targeting and directly inserted advertising into the people's various feeds and streams. That's basically the kitchen sink. (Laughs.) That's the wish list.

Rosenblum It still fundamentally comes down to great content. Advertising is attracted to that, and the creative executives here are at the top of their game. I have reason to believe we'll be able to monetize and maximize the revenue from their work product.