Anne Sweeney, Ed.M. ’80, remembered being a 20-year-old page at ABC TV during the 1970s — a wide-eyed novice in a gray skirt who had to keep silent and still until the commercial breaks.Sweeney is still wide-eyed, but is no longer silent and still. One of the most powerful executives in television as co-chairman of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group, Sweeney led off this season’s series of Askwith Forums at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) Monday night (Sept. 20).Her message was that television is no longer standing still either, as when it was just “a box in your living room.” Instead, television now is a dynamic platform that shows how quickly technology is moving in the digital age, how the viewer experience is changing, and how creativity is still the bedrock of the entertainment machine.“As I was sitting so still,” said Sweeney of her early fascination with television, “the medium never stopped moving.”As if to illustrate this constant motion, she punctuated the discussion with video clips for the packed crowd at Longfellow Hall. The first was a loud, rapid-fire kaleidoscope of Disney television products, from sitcoms and dramas to movies and sporting events. Sweeney called the clip “a portfolio of our businesses,” screen products meant to appeal to audiences “from the age of 2 to their grandparents.”Sweeney is a master of the “tweens” target audience, said HGSE Dean Kathleen McCartney, the age 9 to 14 demographic that not only drives innovation, but expects and demands it. The guest from Disney, said McCartney in her introduction, “has led the [television] industry into the digital age.”Sweeney acknowledged the importance of the 9 to 14 demographic, an age group she said “has driven so much innovation” already. She set aside a recent Saturday to puzzle out a new plug-in feature on her home television, but her pre-teen children had beaten her to it by a week.“Think of them as digital natives,” she said of the millennial generation born between 1980 and 2000, the largest since the Baby Boom and a generation that is casually adroit with the tools of digital access.One earlier Disney campaign encouraged kids to “tune in and log on,” said Sweeney, who recognized early on that television could have a multiplier effect, leading viewers from the TV screen to the computer screen and back again. That was important, in part, she said, because research showed that viewers missed 80 percent of any television show’s episodes, prompting ABC to become the first company to put its shows online.ABC’s “Wildfire,” a series that premiered in 2005, was the first to be accompanied by what Sweeney called “a viewing party,” an online community that could watch the show and comment on it simultaneously.Then it was “Hello, Facebook; goodbye, viewing party,” she said, one in a line of rapid social-networking changes that characterize how viewership has evolved.Then came the iPod, a technology that “changed our business forever,” said Sweeney. “We decided to be the first to put TV content on iTunes.” The speedy process took an unheard-of three days, she said, and spurred “a crazy burst of creativity in our technical team.”With the iPod arrived, television was no longer that box in the living room, said Sweeney, but a flexible “content studio” that allowed viewer comments.The series “Lost” has spawned 40 main fan sites on the Internet, she said, and 25 dedicated Facebook pages. Interactivity like that allows viewers “to keep discovering the show,” said Sweeney. “Lost,” with its narrative complexity, was “the perfect poster show … for digital platforms.”The iPod and other technologies keep jarring the digital age into new shapes, “turbo-charging the medium,” said Sweeney. “It could take an entire semester to do this subject justice.”How you watch television continues to change, she said, as viewers undergo a temporal shift in attitudes. They now expect to watch content whenever they want.Viewers now even expect content to travel with them wherever they go. “The newest way to watch television is on an iPad,” said Sweeney. The iPad also prompted rapid response within the industry, she said. ABC built and loaded its iPad app in just five weeks.Sweeney pushed the button on another video clip, a look at the new ABC News iPad app that allows viewers to “spin the globe” and customize news programming. “We keep expanding options for viewers,” she said. “It’s all about customizing the world to your life. The future of television is very personal.”About 8.5 million episodes of ABC shows have already been downloaded.All this is very good news for the industry, “as long as we can create content [viewers] want to watch,” said Sweeney.While technology speeds up, and television platforms multiply, a questioner asked later, is that vaunted child demographic in danger of being overwhelmed, or even “addicted”?“This is one of those moments when we desperately need parents in the equation,” said Sweeney, whose television group offers children’s programming 24 hours a day. “The technology isn’t going to stop.”
The conference will discuss with leading hoteliers the changes that await us in operations and how to adapt to them, which revenue strategies to use, how to communicate professionally with guests and how to improve health and safety policy in their hotels. Srdjan Mileković, Senior Vice President, Operations for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, HyattJoanna Świerkosz, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Guest Experience for Eastern Europe, Accor HotelsOlof Karlsson, Regional Director for Poland and Southeast Europe, Radisson HotelsEnrico Noack, Regional Director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, Meliá Hotels InternationalDean Amburn, Regional Revenue Management Director for Eastern Europe, Marriott International HOW Online is organized by HESA Group, a company that has been organizing the HOW Festival for 3 years – a conference held in Poreč and gathering over 600 participants; mostly hotel directors, operations directors and hotel department heads. Just some of the confirmed speakers are: As online is currently the only way to hold conferences, for the first time a conference on changes in hotel operations is being held – HOW Online. More information is available at official site organizer, and you can sign up via of this link. Early bird registrations last until Monday 11.5, so we invite you to book your place on time.
Photo courtesy of Craig Y. FujiiLasting legacy · Vin Scully left an indelible mark on many viewers.Three of my childhood sports icons — Kobe Bryant, Vin Scully and David Ortiz — all have announced their retirement this year.On April 13, Bryant played his last game as a Laker. It will be a day that’s forever close to my heart. I got to spend it with my dad, my friend Hailey and our family friend Ralph. While my dad was able to be in Staples Center, Hailey, Ralph and I watched Kobe drop 60 points in his final game together on a big screen at the corner of Figueroa and 7th Streets, surrounded by fellow Lakers fans. In my No. 24 jersey, it was a day well worth the tears.On May 24, I got to see Big Papi play at Fenway for the first time. Getting to chant “Papi!” in unison with the entire stadium was just one highlight of a day that 8-year-old Jodee had always dreamed about. He hit well and was responsible for four of the team’s eight runs in their victory. Decked out in my No. 34 jersey, it was also a day well worth the tears.On Oct. 2, both Ortiz and Scully participated in their final regular-season games, one-on-one on the West Coast and the other on the East Coast. After spending the day watching both games and the ceremonies surrounding each, I was reminded of the greatness that both men brought to baseball and to my life. It was also a day well worth the tears.Originally, I wanted to write about how each of these three shaped both me and my love for sports, but Sunday night something happened and my idea shifted a bit.At 9 p.m., I went to mass at the USC Our Savior Parish as I do every Sunday when I’m at USC. During the homily, Father Steve Davoren talked about how a couple of weeks back he received an email asking if he’d like to say mass at Dodgers Stadium. This wasn’t just any mass. It was mass on Sept. 25, Vin’s final day at Dodgers Stadium. Growing up a Dodgers fan, Fr. Steve quickly accepted the invitation.He shared with everyone about the trip of riding down the elevator with Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and the other Dodgers stars. Once down in the room where mass was being held, Fr. Steve talked about how Vin walked in the room with tears streaming down his face.Fr. Steve thought his tears were only about the fact that it was his final game at Chavez Ravine. But when Vin walked up to Fr. Steve, he shared with Fr. Steve about how he’d just been in the locker room and all the guys were upset about the tragic passing of Jose Fernandez, the Marlins’ star who died in a boating accident last week. He told the father that he couldn’t imagine the pain Fernandez’s parents must be going through and asked for prayers for his family and teammates.Fr. Steve was shocked. Here was this man — a legendary broadcaster, on his final day at Dodgers Stadium in his 67th year with the Dodgers — and he’s more worried about others than himself.Fr. Steve tangentially talked about Kirk Gibson’s home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series. He joked about how none of us sitting there are old enough to have seen it live and how it was the last time the Dodgers won the World Series. He did a quick sign of the cross in hopes that the team could win it all this season. As a Dodgers fan and the daughter of a Dodgers fan, I’ve heard my dad talk about Gibson’s home run fondly. Not only was it the last year the Dodgers won the World Series, but Gibson’s home run was also on the night of my dad’s bachelor party. So though I didn’t see it live, I’ve seen the clip and heard Vin’s call a multitude of times.Fr. Steve shared how he can still picture the full count, two-out pitch and remembers Vin’s call exactly.“The impossible has happened,” Fr. Steve said to the congregation, re-enacting Scully’s call.Fr. Steve went on to say that Vin just doesn’t call games: it feels like he’s sharing the game directly with you, like you were in the same room. He said Vin can take the smallest instances on the field and talk about them in such a way that they seem like the most important thing to happen that day.Of course, Fr. Steve tied all of this back to the Catholic faith. He talked about how having faith as small as a mustard seed can lead to miraculous things. He related that famous line — the impossible has happened — to Jesus and the Catholic faith. For me, it was a culmination of two of the things I hold near to my heart.By the end of his homily, I had tears in my eyes. Fr. Steve so beautifully summed up why so many people are drawn to Vin Scully, why he’s captured the hearts of baseball fans spanning a number of generations, why I wish I could’ve been able to experience more than just the 20 years — not even a third of Vin’s career — that I’ve experienced.In the games leading up to his finale, Vin said numerous times that he believes he’s needed fans more than we’ve needed him, going so far as to sing that we’ve been “The Wind Beneath [His] Wings.” To the little red-haired boy that fell in love with baseball so long ago and grew into the broadcaster that everyone knows and loves, thank you for saying “enough for a lifetime.” This is Jodee Storm Sullivan wishing Vin Scully a very pleasant retirement, wherever he may be.Jodee Storm Sullivan is a junior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. Her column, “The Storm Report,” runs Tuesdays.