Coinciding with its evolution from premium to basic cable, where it is seen by an additional 25 million U.S. viewers, Disney Channel has redesigned its logo and channel ID, and is aggressively honing its programming slate to strengthen the brand.
‘The new Disney Channel logo is built to be customized,’ says Eleo Hensleigh, senior vice president of marketing for Disney Channel and Disney/ABC Cable Networks. Program characters are incorporated in the television screen. For instance, in Going Wild with Jeff Corwin and Omba Mokomba, the hosts are featured bursting out of the icon.
This emphasis on action and fun also reflects the network’s response to increased competition, says Hensleigh. ‘With kids, we have to look at what other networks are doing. There are so many choices of where and how people are spending timeÑnot just TV. It’s so competitive right nowÑyou just have to be smart.’ The new logo was created by Lee Hunt Associates.
In conjunction with the logo redesign, the channel’s top executives took a hard look at network identity and audience potential. The result was the addition of original programming, like Northern Lights, a movie of the week and the adoption of three day parts: the ‘little kids,’ ‘middle-aged kids’ and ‘kid-driven family’ zonesÑeach with distinct network IDs. While these zones are never mentioned on air, they’re clearly differentiated, says Anne Sweeney, Disney Channel president and executive vice president of Disney/ABC Cable Networks. The ‘middle-aged kids’ zone, for instance, features edgier music and bolder moves than the others. The logo also reflects the changing day parts: Winnie the Pooh characters appear in the morning, Goofy in the afternoon and Tinkerbell in prime time. A black and white classic Mickey is used for adult overnight.
The changes at Disney Channel are grounded in intense family research, says Sweeney. ‘We talked to kids and families, asking them not what they liked on TV, but what was happening in their livesÑquestions like: `How do we spend more time together?’ Kids said what they wanted most was more quality time with parents.’
Sweeney adds that quality time wasn’t defined by kids as sharing big experiences or events, but as any time spent together, and the channel’s seven-night-per-week ‘Magical World of Disney’ block addresses this need for family contact. ‘Kids are concerned not only that parents watch with them, but that they enjoy it as much as they do. All the movies we have are pretty parent-friendly,’ she says.
As for the move to basic cable, initiated seven years ago by then-president John Cook, it has proven successful, says Sweeney. ‘Cook made the decision to allow cable operators to take Disney Channel as a basic or as a pay channel. It was an incredibly smart decision as basic cable continued to grow.’