HRTS Member Profile: Albert Cheng

Albert Cheng Headshot

Albert Cheng

Albert Cheng is Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer, Digital Media, at the Disney/ABC Television Group. I recently had a chance to interview Albert to discuss mentoring, Steve Jobs, and the value of live.

Q: Can you tell us about your background and what made you want to work in entertainment?
-I’ve been an executive in entertainment for the last 15 years, first at Fox and now at Disney.  Prior to that, I was a strategy consultant at The Boston Consulting Group and an engineer for Boeing. I’ve always loved entertainment as a consumer and when I moved to Los Angeles after business school, it occurred to me that I might just want to try building a career in the industry.

Q: How did you first get involved with the HRTS?
-I first got involved with HRTS as a mentor, which I would recommend to anyone in the industry as a way to give back but also to learn from your mentees. I find that I learn so much more through that experience.

Q: What is a favorite memory from your career thus far?
-There have been many moments, especially over the last ten years. The most memorable is having Bob Iger and Anne Sweeney invite Steve Jobs to sit down with my team after we built the ABC Player app when it launched with the first iPad. Steve was extremely complimentary about the app and the team was excited to meet their idol. For me, it was a highlight because the team built the app in five weeks all on their own and with no iPad to test it. It was a thrill to have done something a second time (the first being online streaming on that launched our industry into a new way for consumers to experience great TV shows in the digital space.

Q: Will digital dimes one day replace analog dollars?
-I think we’ve moved past this comparison at this point in time. Consumer behavior is rapidly shifting and we need to figure out how we meet their needs. Digital is important today and a core part of our future.

Q: What are some of the elements of a successful digital product?
-A successful digital product is one that squarely meets consumer demand and it needs to solve a material problem. What we’ve done in the last 10 years is open up distribution of our content where it had previously been limited to time and place. What’s been a surprise is just how much technology has made content more personal and accessing it more emotional through the way we interface with devices and digital experiences.

Q: In an on-demand world, what is the value of the Oscar Digital Experience?
-There will always be a place for live events and the Oscars are one of the few shows that brings the global community together.  And with live shows, viewers want to be entertained and surprised. With the Oscar Digital Experience, which is now delivered through WATCH ABC online and the app, we create an enhanced content experience that provides a unique vantage point of the show. John Lasseter was the biggest driver and champion of the Oscar multi-camera live experience. He felt that it was important that viewers feel like they were there on the red carpet and backstage with their favorite stars. Wouldn’t it be great to stumble onto something that wasn’t broadcast on TV?

Q: With the rise of companies like Netflix and Amazon, will “television” one day cease to exist?
-With the rise of what we are all doing today, what you’re seeing is the promise of what the future of television will look like.

Q: What is the most promising opportunity on the digital horizon?
-Consumers will have at their disposal so much choice and so much great storytelling. It’s a great time to be able to find almost anything you want, when you want it.

Q: Anything you would like to add?
-We’ve always looked at technology changes as opportunities. This time is not any different.