Sunday, March 29, 2009

Disney's Asia Senior VP Sees South Korea as a Priority

Rob Gilby, Senior Vice President and Managing Director of Disney-ABC International Television for the Asia Pacific Region, named Korea a "priority growth market" in an interview with The Korea Herald last Thursday.

Here to help launch Disney's mobile VOD deal for full length features - the first to be made outside North America - the 38-year old senior vice president sat down to discuss the company's agreement with SK Telecom, his visions for the Korean market and his views on piracy.

Throughout the interview, Gilby swapped jokes and maintained an upbeat attitude, revealing that he has a red belt with a "black tie" in Taekwondo and that he grew up singing Disney songs.

Citing strong high quality Korean movies and dramas as a reason for Korea's importance, Gilby said: "Korea, as a market, is obviously international. ... It is one of our priority territories globally." "It has tremendous potential. It's a large enough market.

It has a great consumer base, so there are enough people that have high spending power and they are very sophisticated."

The senior vice president cited technology as the second reason behind Korea's prominence.
"The application of technology has been really pioneering in Korea," said Gilby. "If you look at not only broadband penetration, but the broadband speeds in Korea, and then what that leads people to do; if you look at the consumption online of video and of gaming, if you look at the mobile TV market, you know, really pioneering mobile television, globally."

Gilby, however, said that Korea's technological breakthroughs are not why the Walt Disney Company's international TV distribution arm, Disney-ABC International Television (Asia Pacific) is providing SK Telecom's 2G and 3G mobile subscribers with its full length movies and TV series.

"That's not why we did the deal, it just presented the opportunity," Gilby stated.

The deal with SK Telecom means that over 23 million subscribers in South Korea can check out movies like "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl," "National Treasure," and "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" as well as watch TV shows like "Desperate Housewives," "Grey's Anatomy," "Lost" and "Alias."

According to Gilby, however, one will not be able to get mobile VOD right away.

"The windowing is that you have a theatrical release first, and then you have a home video, a DVD release date, and then you have video on demand," Gilby explained.

At a time when illegal downloading is quickly becoming a major issue, what incentive, then, do people have to wait, until a legitimate digital copy is available?

"Our research shows most people want to consume legitimately and are willing to pay something to consume, provided they're given the choice to do so," said Gilby.

"I think most people, the majority, are inherently good," Gilby added. "So what we need to do is give them the choice."

According to Gilby, research conducted on consumers in Seoul revealed that choice and flexibility are considered important.

"Flexibility is often ... on timing, but it can also be on location," said Gilby. "That's why a mobile deal is particularly flexible because if you want to watch that movie, you know, you don't need to wait until you are at home to do it."

But when it comes to piracy, Gilby is far from flexible.

"Piracy is an illegal action," he stated. "As an owner of intellectual property, of course I'm going to protect it. ... We will continue to support the action against people who infringe our copyrights."

"But that alone is not going to provide consumers what they want," he added. "We want to create legitimate offerings to consumers."

Gilby predicted that more and more people would search for quick and cost effective ways to provide content to consumers, citing the mobile VOD deal with SK Telecom as "one step towards that."

Currently responsible for all Disney-ABC International Television (Asia Pacific) activities throughout the Asia Pacific Region, Japan excluded, Gilby has been working for Disney for approximately three years and has been senior vice president for about a year.

Disney-ABC International Television (Asia Pacific) licenses films, network television series, ABC News programming, animation and specials to all platforms in the region.

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