NATPE 2006: Interview: Steve Wadsworth, President, Walt Disney Interactive Group


steve wadsworth: [Staci D. Kramer] I had the chance to sit down with Steve Wadsworth for a few minutes after he appeared on a NATPE panel with other top digital execs. It happened to be within hours after the Disney-Pixar announcement. Wadsworth is an online survivor, joining Disney Online when it was founded in 1995; he’s been president of WDIG since 1999. He outlasted the bubble and the implosion of Go, along with the changes at Disney corporate. Disney’s first MVNO — Mobile ESPN — officially launches during the upcoming Super Bowl weekend. The portions regarding mobile can be found at our sister site; there’s a little overlap. We covered a surprising amount of ground:

Q: At what point does (something like Pixar or other other corporate moves) start to affect digital? At what point do you start to be part of the planning process?

Wadsworth:“I think we’re starting to get to that stage. It depends on the property and it depends what the situation is obviously. But certainly, ESPN, which is an incredibly well-run., well integrated business, when they think about things like sports rights or they think about ad sales, they’re thinking about everything and that includes the internet, mobile, it includes television, it includes radio, it includes print. They think that way and it’s all now becoming part of that mix. Certainly, broadly, the internet group, the internet operations across the company, are becoming more and more a part of the thought process when it comes to rights and acquisition, rights clearance.”

Q: You’ve been able to license some rights for the MVNO you couldn’t get otherwise (live, in-game highlights, etc.).

Wadsworth: “Part of that is they’re not looking to license to somebody who then becomes a redistributor of their content. They’re looking for somebody who’s going to produce around it and create products around it. That’s what we do, that’s what ESPN does, that’s what we do with our Disney brand of products, what ABC does around show product — so in a lot of ways you end up needing to have your own platform and your own audience, which we have on, which we will have through Mobile ESPN. … part of this is there will be multiple distribution models that emerge; one of them is certainly going to be building our audiences, building direct to consumer products and product distribution and certainly ESPN is going to be one of those where in all media it’s going to be there to serve the sports fan as directly as possible. â

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