Q&A: Disney’s Ben Sherwood and Bruce Rosenblum Talk New Job, Growth Opportunities and Priorities

Cynthia Littleton

Ben Sherwood and Bruce Rosenblum bonded over a burger lunch this summer as Sherwood was searching for a seasoned executive to help run the business side of the Disney/ABC Television Group.

Rosenblum’s new job as president of business operations for DATG reflects the expansion of the traditional TV landscape. The position will have Rosenblum, the former Warner Bros. TV Group chief, grappling with everything from carriage negotiations with MVPDs to ABC’s affiliate relations at home to content licensing around the world. A big part of his charter will be revving up a Consumer Insights division tasked with helping the company understand how viewing habits are changing in the multiplatform age.

Sherwood and Rosenblum, who is the outgoing chairman of the Television Academy, spoke with Variety’s Cynthia Littleton shortly after his new role was unveiled on Friday.

How long have you been talking about Bruce coming over to Disney?

Sherwood: We’ve been in conversations for a few months. We met for a burger nearby a few months ago and began a conversation that has continued for a few months. (The agreement) culminated quickly in the last couple of weeks.

Rosenblum: I had been meeting with an (executive) recruiter who walked me through the opportunity. I said, “That’s exactly what I want to do. Please get me in to see Ben.” And here I am sitting here today.

Sherwood: Our goal was to get through Emmy weekend and have him start. So I’ve asked Bruce to keep the partying to a minimum on Sunday and start bright and early Monday morning.

Rosenblum: I’ll be leaving the HBO party early.

How will Bruce’s new role affect the structure of your TV group as it exists now?

Sherwood: I think we have the best team in the business at Disney/ABC, and it just got even better. Ultimately it doesn’t affect the structure of our business but it will make it more efficient. I’ll go from having 17 direct reports to far fewer. Having Bruce’s hand in this business partnership will allow me to focus more on the big-picture challenges we face and spend even more time on our creative output.

Is this new position a response to the growth of TV as a business overall?

Sherwood: We are in a rapidly changing, extremely dynamic industry in which there are very complex business challenges and also enormous opportunities. Given the complexity of the environment I thought it would be great to bring in one of the most respected and proven executives in the industry. We are going to get even better at executing our business. Bruce is going to help us make some of the difficult decisions that we’re going to have to make to expand our business.

What are some of those decisions? What will Bruce’s immediate focus be?

Sherwood: There are a lot of things, whether it’s understanding rapidly changing consumer behavior through our Consumer Insights [group] or the challenges that linear networks face and the expansion of content distribution domestically and overseas. Or helping to reinvigorate the MVPD eco-system, Bruce has a lot of experience in these areas and we are excited for his insights.

Rosenblum: I am excited to get to work. I have been hearing from my friend Alan Horn (the former WB chief operating officer who joined Disney in 2012) about his great experience working for Disney. There is so much opportunity here.

Sherwood: Our highest hope is that Bruce brings as much success to Disney/ABC TV Group as Alan Horn has brought to the motion picture studio here.

(Pictured: Bruce Rosenblum, Ben Sherwood)

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