How Disney Is Preparing for TV’s Seismic Shifts Ahead

Rita Ferro on the future of TV ad sales, upfront timing and the Oscars on Adweek @ Home

Disney president of advertising sales and partnerships Rita Ferro spoke at Adweek's virtual event Tuesday.
Headshot of Mónica Marie Zorrilla

Rita Ferro, president of advertising sales and partnerships at The Walt Disney Company, revealed the media giant is getting ready to start preproduction across all of its properties, which include ABC, ESPN, National Geographic, Freeform and Hulu, to ensure a new slate of programs is ready by fall.

“We are excited about where we are from a production standpoint,” Ferro told Adweek’s TV editor Jason Lynch on Tuesday during an Adweek @ Home session on the Future of TV.

The Disney brands are also getting ready for production on live sports following delays and cancellations brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. Major League Soccer and the NBA are negotiating to continue their seasons in one central location: Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex at Orlando’s Walt Disney World.

“I think there’s a lot of work that has been happening over the last 12 weeks, in terms of just getting the content and the programming ready to go for this moment,” Ferro said.

Though April was a hard month for Disney’s ad sales, the company has seen robust overall business demand this month. Ferro predicted that the scatter market would remain busy throughout the rest of the summer.

“I’m sure that’s true across the marketplace that across most of the major media companies in July, August, September, as we prepare for rolling into the fall, and the upfront conversations that have already started as well with some partners,” she said.

These conversations may be going well because of how the company reached out to its partners during the Covid-imposed shutdown of the U.S. economy. Instead of hosting a single livestreamed upfront presentation, Disney put on an upfront roadshow featuring seven tailored agency presentations between May 25 and June 1. With talent that included Morgan Freeman, Kerry Washington, Ryan Seacrest, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the events were customized and personalized to each agency and their clients.

“This was really magical in a different way,” Ferro said. “It had a very intimate feel.”

For more on Ferro’s thoughts on:

Watch the full 20-minute Q&A here:

@monicroqueta Mónica is a breaking news reporter at Adweek.