MIPCOM: Disney's Ben Sherwood Talks "Tumultuous" U.S. Presidential Election, Diversity and Digital Disruption

Ben Sherwood - H 2016
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The head of Disney-ABC Television Group does not support building walls.

Disney Media Networks co-chairman and Disney/ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood on Tuesday kicked off his keynote address at MIPCOM in Cannes with a jab at political rhetoric this U.S. election season and referenced Donald Trump's suggestion to build a wall along the border with Mexico.

"In the United States, our tumultuous presidential election reflects these complicated times," Sherwood said after lamenting recent terrorist attacks in France, including one at the nearby Promenade des Anglais in Nice. "With so much talk of building borders and walls, we believe as storytellers that we would do well to remember our global heritage and our traditions."

The exec argued "this unsettled moment" in U.S. politics needed to be met by "creating connections and understanding through the unifying power of great storytelling." Sherwood, who heads up the Disney-ABC Television Group and oversees Disney's channels worldwide, then talked of another kind of global disruption — media companies needing to stay relevant in a fast-changing TV landscape.

"For the first time this year, consumers around the world will spend more time watching videos on their mobile devices than they will on desktop computers and smart TVs," he said. At the same time, Sherwood said changing consumer habits only made it more crucial that Disney continue to raise its storytelling game.

"While some worry and complain about the future of TV, and reaching 'Peak TV,' we believe there is an almost unlimited appetite and audience for truly great television that transcends borders," he told the Cannes audience.

Sherwood also touched on recent executive changes at Disney/ABC, including ABC Studios promoting Patrick Moran to president and veteran TV exec Bruce Rosenblum joining the Disney-ABC TV Group as president of business operations.

And he addressed the hot topic of diversity by pointing to Disney's partnership with Shonda Rhimes and her impressive ABC series output with Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder

"We believe diversity isn't just a business requirement, it's simply the right thing to do and it makes good sense," said Sherwood. "We want a diversity of opinions and a diversity of voices."