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Disney Co-Chair recognises 'piracy is a business model'

"Pirates compete the same way we do - through quality, price and availability."

Giving the Keynote address at Mipcom, Disney co-chair Anne Sweeney has broken with studio convention and recognised piracy as a business model to compete with, as opposed to simply an illegal threat to be battled. Sweeney's pragmatic conversion came after seing - within 15 minutes of the ABC network premiere of Despearate Housewives - a high-quality, ad-free version that had appeared on P2P networks.

“We understand now that piracy is a business model,” said Sweeney, twice voted Hollywood's most powerful woman by the Hollywood Reporter. “It exists to serve a need in the market for consumers who want TV content on demand. Pirates compete the same way we do - through quality, price and availability. We we don’t like the model but we realise it’s competitive enough to make it a major competitor going forward.”

In the year since the iTunes deal was first done with Apple, Disney has sold 12.8 million episodes via iTunes and 51 of the 272 TV series available on the service are Disney products.

"audiences have the upper hand and show no sign of giving it back.”

As reported on, Sweeney's address also pointed out:

- Eighty-four percent of those that used the on-demand service said that it was a “good deal” to get a free episode in return for watching an ad and, significantly for advertisers, 87 percent of those could recall the advertiser that sponsored the programme.

- Sweeney outlined Disney’s strategy as: being primarily about content because it drives everything else; being about maximising new platforms for both content and advertisers; and sharpening its brands, because consumers choose brands they know and trust.

- Partnership, she said, is critical because Disney needs “compatible brands” to focus on its core aims of: a quality user experience; growth on delivering consumer value; content valuation and protection; and a commitment to market products and services.

- “The digital revolution has unleashed a consumer coup. We have to not only make in-demand content but make it on-demand. This power shift changes the way we think about our business, industry and our viewers. We have to build our businesses around their behaviour and their interests.”

- “The most powerful creativity comes in response to a challenge - as long as you know who you are and where you want to go.”

- “All of us have to continually renew our business in order to renew our brands because audiences have upper hand and show no sign of giving it back.”