The power of fans according to Disney

Online TV fans often question whether anyone behind the screen is paying attention to them. Toward that end, this report on Disney Company CEO Robert Iger’s keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show has a couple of interesting tidibits. First, we know that sports pages are the killer apps for network websites, but it’s still pretty amazing to hear Iger’s stats:

He said, sports fans spend an average of two hours each day on ESPN’s website, researching their teams. Disney owns ESPN. Shows offered on the company’s website have been played or download 120 million times over the past year and Disney was the first to offer its movie catalogue to viewers over Apple’s iTunes music service.

Appearing with him was Evangeline Lilly from Lost since, as he put it, “there is no show that demonstrates the importance of the Internet, than Lost”

“ABC created this worldwide phenomena called Lost,” he said. “It has become the most successful multi-platform show ever. has been overrun with fans coming to watch podcasts, discuss the show or view full length episodes.”

I especially liked Lilly’s comment about why “it’s particularly challenging to work on a show that has such a loyal online following”:

“The fans have a lot more control over the show than we do as actors,” she told the attendees at the conference. “We are really at the mercy of the fans. Producers go online to look at what is being said and they react to that.”

Of course, what’s often left out of these discussions is that fans never seem to speak with a single voice (Agnes Nixon, one of the best and most revered soap opera writers of all time, once noted that they know they’ve got it right when fan letters were evenly split between loving and hating what they were doing). Still, it’s unusual to see it recognized that to a great extent celebrities serve at the pleasure of the fans, and that the internet only enhances this power dynamic.

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