He gets paid to watch TV at Disney

The Interactive and Digital Media sector, nurtured by the Economic Development Board, is a hub in Asia for the creation and commercialisation of media content for the world. It holds exciting opportunities as demand grows. In the fifth of a seven-part series, Arti Mulchand profiles three people working in the sector.

Ask his two children, and Ryan, 10, and Megan, nine, will tell you that daddy Christopher Ho has the best job in the world.

And while his office may not be the "Happiest Place on Earth", it is a close second.

Mr Ho is senior manager for programming with The Walt Disney Company South-east Asia, and is based out of the distinctive Sandcrawler at Fusionopolis, a building shared with film-making giant Lucasfilm.

Each day, the 41-year-old is greeted by a cast of characters in the corridors, including legendary Jedi master Yoda, superhero Iron Man and Disney mascot Mickey Mouse.

And he gets paid to watch TV.

"There are hundreds of television sets all around the office, and I even have one on my desk.

"When you are fortunate enough to work in the entertainment industry, the line between work and fun is often blurred," he says with a laugh.

Together with a team of 10, Mr Ho decides "who sees what and when" on Disney's various language channels across the region, and across its various platforms. 

His decisions, which include shows from the United States, Europe and Asia, are based largely on ratings and what appear to be most popular with each channel's target audience.

He also manages Disney XD, a channel that targets boys between six and 14 with its offerings, which include Marvel's superheroes and Star Wars.

"It is about identifying the 'sweet spot' for viewers, and figuring out what they would like to watch," he says.

In that, he has a slight edge - his children and a niece in pre-school are smack in the middle of his target demographic.

"My kids can be very articulate and insightful with their observations," he notes.

They provide feedback to some of his programming ideas and also love the perks of his job, like gifts from the office. They have also been to Hong Kong Disneyland twice, and will go again this year.

But it also means that, like many parents of pre-teens, he has watched Disney's Frozen too many times to count - and it does not drive him any less crazy.

"My daughter watched it a whole lot, her friends go on about it, and it is all my young niece talks about. It is great to sometimes get away from that," he admits.

Mr Ho also co-leads Disney's Futures Thinking programme - planning for shows for 10 to 20 years down the road, and scanning trends in everything from technology and education to politics, to chart scenarios in which Disney could be operating.

Mr Ho's love for the visual arts started young. He moved to a new country every three to four years, thanks to his father's diplomat job with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but art was a constant.

After he graduated with a degree in communication studies and sociology from Murdoch University in Perth, he had programming positions at the Media Development Authority and HBO Asia.

In 2007, he lived every child's dream by joining Disney. He remembers that "it felt like coming full circle. I grew up with Disney and, in fact, my honours thesis was on Disney animation, looking at both the technical and sociological aspects of animation".

So, what happens when his children grow up - and grow out of Disney?

"I have always loved entertainment and animation, so that is what I will keep doing," he says.

"I want to keep watching television for a living."

This article was first published on Nov 10, 2014.

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