Disney in the 21st Century
by Adam Preskill
As President of Disney Channels Worldwide, Rich Ross is charged with distributing Disney entertainment to more than a hundred countries. Fortunately they all have one thing in common: Kids are kids. “I’ve learned that all kids want some very simple things,” says Ross, “like a good home life, parents who support them and a good laugh.”
Much like the world’s youngest generation, Disney is embracing emerging technologies under Ross’ leadership, seeking out new ways for kids to soak up entertainment. “We have been offering a multiplatform experience to our viewers for many years,” says Ross, “and the focus had been online. But now with the sophistication of mobile phones, we are laserfocused on that, too. The challenge is for kids and their parents to understand the power and pitfalls of those offerings, and we feel we can play a role in helping the family navigate our new digital world.”
Originally from New York, Ross broke onto the Hollywood scene as the senior vice president of development and production at FX Networks. He joined Disney in 1996 and launched the Disney Channel Original Movies franchise that spawned the wildly popular High School Musical. Ross is currently focused on the recent launch of Disney XD, an international cable channel and website. As with any new Disney product, he’s ready for direct feedback from his primary audience.
“Kids are so honest,” he says.
“Working for them really keeps you on your toes.”
A morning person who practices yoga and enjoys travel, Ross lives in the Hollywood Hills with his partner of more than 20 years, Adam Sanderson, and describes himself as a happy convert to LA life. “It takes a while to get used to driving everywhere,” says Ross, “but I have fallen in love with my trunk, which for a New Yorker is like the biggest shopping bag possible.”