Disney Hires Wal-Mart, AOL Executives for Consumer TV Push

Walt Disney Co. hired two executives, one from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and the other from AOL Inc., to analyze consumers’ shifting TV-watching habits and find ways to profit from them.

Cindy Davis, who tracked customer behavior for the world’s largest retailer, will study the viewing of cable’s Disney Channel and Disney’s broadcast network, ABC, looking for ways to make the experience more personalized, Disney said Tuesday in a statement. Her title is executive vice president, consumer experience.

John Frelinghuysen, who served as head of strategy at AOL for two years, will join Disney as executive vice president, digital media, strategy and business development. He will help the TV networks deliver more short- and long-form programming on digital platforms. Frelinghuysen previously consulted with entertainment companies at Bain & Co.

Disney, like other TV programmers, has been analyzing its audience beyond the traditional Nielsen ratings, looking for ways it can deliver more specific sets of viewers to advertisers, much like the Internet does.

While Davis and Frelinghuysen will be studying new media devices such as tablet computers and smart phones, the company’s focus remains on the pay-TV subscription bundle, said Ben Sherwood, co-chairman of Disney’s media networks division.

“We have a real need to know the audience as its moving between platforms and devices and deliver more targeted ways to reach them,” Sherwood said in an interview. “We believe that consumers have more choice than ever. Our goal is to super-serve them with the best stories and the most clearly-defined brands.”