Skip to Content
Alumni profile

Albert Cheng ’92

At the forefront of TV’s digital revolution.
December 22, 2015

When Albert Cheng joined the business development team at Fox Cable Networks in 1999, it was impossible to foresee how the television industry would transform in the coming years. But Cheng had a persistent sense that change was coming, and that the key word was “Internet.”

Albert Cheng ’92

“I was analyzing sports programming rights for Fox’s regional sports networks,” he says. “And what always came up? Internet rights. I realized that sports leagues could someday bypass TV networks if they could broadcast their games on the Internet.”

And when Cheng joined the Disney/ABC Television Group in 2000, he aimed to be at the forefront of TV’s digital era. In 2001, he launched the Disney Channel’s subscription video-on-demand service, the first for cable television. In 2006, under Cheng’s direction, ABC was the first network to stream free, ad-supported programming online; in 2010, it was the first to offer a free, ad-supported video-­streaming app on the iPad.

“The early days of streaming were a massively complicated process,” he says. “We had to create a video player, a streaming infrastructure, with geo­targeted advertising and content protection. But that’s where my MIT background came in. I was at the negotiating table, but I also understood how the technology worked.”

Cheng spent nearly 15 years at Disney/ABC, including 10 years as the company’s digital-media czar. While there he helped develop the ad-supported streaming model that is now commonplace among television networks.

In May 2015, he was named chief operating officer for Amazon Studios,’s content development division, where he now oversees all business operations and software development and is using Amazon’s trove of data to inform programming decisions.

“We want to know how Amazon can use this data from a content perspective,” he says. “How can we use technology to optimize the way we create shows and content? We know data science isn’t going to magically create a hit, but we can use data to [help] value elements like talent, story pacing, and appeal.”

Cheng, who grew up in Hawaii, studied materials science at MIT, and later got an MBA at Harvard Business School, says the Institute helped him develop the problem-solving mind-set that has played a large role in his success. “The best part of MIT is that everyone wants to solve problems,” he says. “Finding problem-­oriented practical solutions—that’s what my entire career has been about.”

Keep Reading

Most Popular

still from Embodied Intelligence video
still from Embodied Intelligence video

These weird virtual creatures evolve their bodies to solve problems

They show how intelligence and body plans are closely linked—and could unlock AI for robots.

pig kidney transplant surgery
pig kidney transplant surgery

Surgeons have successfully tested a pig’s kidney in a human patient

The test, in a brain-dead patient, was very short but represents a milestone in the long quest to use animal organs in human transplants.

conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned
conceptual illustration showing various women's faces being scanned

A horrifying new AI app swaps women into porn videos with a click

Deepfake researchers have long feared the day this would arrive.

thermal image of young woman wearing mask
thermal image of young woman wearing mask

The covid tech that is intimately tied to China’s surveillance state

Heat-sensing cameras and face recognition systems may help fight covid-19—but they also make us complicit in the high-tech oppression of Uyghurs.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.