Anne Sweeney may be one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, but she’s going to need to hire someone to pre-approve what she writes if she continues to treat her customers like idiots. Who is Anne Sweeney? Well she serves as Co-Chair Disney Media Networks and President, Disney-ABC Television Group. Translated that means she’s responsible for all of Disney’s television entertainment and news across the globe.

Sweeney joined The Walt Disney Company in 1996 and has helped grow much of Disney’s cable business (The Disney Channel, Toon Disney, ABC Family, and SOAPnet) by impressive amounts. Her latest effort is an attempt to serve ABC and other Disney television shows to consumer via Video On Demand. In exchange for watching a few advertisements (fewer than when you watch it on broadcast TV) you get free access to the VOD shows. Not a bad idea on its face.

The problem comes when Anne Sweeney tried to sell the product as a replacement for TIVO. Here’s Sweeney quoted in the NY TiImes.

“This does counter the DVR,” said Anne Sweeney, the president of the
Disney-ABC television group. “You don’t need TiVo if you have
fast-forward-disabled video on demand. It gives you the same
opportunity to catch up to your favorite shows.”

So not having the ability to fast-forward through commercials is a feature? This is a failure of Sweeney to understand online media while insisting that the benefits of the new media is actually a weakness. With Bob Iger’s strong push to move Disney into a strong player in the digital realm, you have to wonder how this idea got through.

DVRs and TIVOs are all about time-shifting. It’s been proven that viewers will stop and watch advertising that is targeted to them or is content driven or just brilliant. It might be a better idea to focus on that. This new fast-forward disabled Video-On-Demand product is like trying to get mobile phone users to go back to the telegraph because they can charge more to send messages via morse code. No one is going to pay that when they can get unlimited minutes for $35 a month.

Apparently surveys of the test audience in Southern California showed that most users appreciated the product. But I’m having a hard time believing that after reading some of the surveys Disney asks at its themeparks to show ‘support’ for a new policy. Disney knows how to craft those questions. What is the percentage of viewers who will use the VOD system when they can still record the show on their DVR and then time-shirt and Fast-Forward it through the commercials anyway? This will become even easier ask disk-space becomes cheaper and cheaper.

So the question is does Disney think its audience is full of idiots who can’t figure out how to record something on a DVR to watch later or download it to watch later? I don’t know, but it’s not a good idea to insult your customers if you want them to stick around.

See also: Marc Andreessen; Techdirt – Dear ABC; Digital Daily- Must Flee TV; BusinessWeek – ABC tries to thwart DVR use.