A Salute to Disney Channel: Disney Channel reaches 15th anniversary

More eyes have been watching the ears than ever before....
April 1, 1998

More eyes have been watching the ears than ever before.

Disney Channel turns 15 years old on April 18, but for a cable channel that has been around that long, it has been a late bloomer. Now, it’s making up for lost time-in a hurry.

For years, the channel that many industry watchers considered a weak sister in the Disney chain has retooled, refocused and recast itself as a vital, contemporary service that appeals to kids and parents.

Ratings back it up. Moving from a premium service to a basic cable channel has raised the number of households it is available in to over 35 million. In 1997, the channel had the highest share in viewership in prime time, and second highest overall, in cable homes that offered the channel, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Led by Anne Sweeney, who came aboard as Disney Channel president in March 1996, the channel has aggressively ramped up original programming, changed its on-air look and created innovative marketing initiatives to connect viewers to the channel.

Now, 15 years after its initial launch, Disney launches a second service, Toon Disney, an all-animated basic cable channel that showcases the best of Disney animation.

‘The challenge always is to stay relevant to the audience,’ says Sweeney. ‘To make sure we’re really plugged in to what’s going on in kids’ and families’ lives out there. We’ve had tremendous creative growth. I think we’re getting to the heart and soul of kids and families.’

In this special report, KidScreen examines how Disney Channel has stepped up to the top tier of cable services.

In this report:
- Programming: Back to basics
- Disney Channel time line
- Marketing: Not your parents’ Disney
- Q&A with Anne Sweeney
- Drawing up Toon Disney
- International: Vive le Mickey

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