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A Salute to Disney Channel: International: Vive le Mickey

A brand name like Disney carries certain expectations, and when the Disney name is exported around the world, you better be sure that a Disney international channel fulfills those expectations....
April 1, 1998

A brand name like Disney carries certain expectations, and when the Disney name is exported around the world, you better be sure that a Disney international channel fulfills those expectations.

As Disney Channel broadens its global reach, the biggest challenge it faces is finding local partners who are adroit at delivering Disney-style programming and marketing.

Carefully cultivating these relationships often delays Disney’s entry into new territories, but the company would rather err on the side of caution. That results in a slow but steady overseas expansion that began in March 1995 in Taiwan and has spread to six countries, with Spain coming on-line in April (see box).

‘We take a long time before we commit to launch dates because of the logistic challenge,’ says Selby Hall, senior vice president of marketing and research at Walt Disney Television International. ‘We need to go in to the market and attract the most talented TV production and marketing executives to manage the Disney Channel in that country. That takes time, and as a result, we won’t go forward and launch until we know with the greatest confidence that we’ve got a service that meets consumers’ expectations of Disney.’

Like other U.S. services that have expanded internationally, localization of programming, be it on-air hosts, native language or location shooting, has been a driving force of success. Unlike its U.S. parent, Disney Channel International remains a pay service in all territories, except Taiwan and Malaysia, where it is ad supported.

While the on-air look of international channels remains consistent to the Disney brand, individual channels are free to devise schedules and marketing programs based on the viewing habits of children in that market. Ensuring that locally acquired or locally originated product lives up to Disney standard presents a challenge. One such successful program is Art Attack, which was developed for the U.K. channel and is now being formatted for other regions. ‘It’s about creative expression and showing kids how they can work with materials that they can easily find around their house to make art,’ says Hall. ‘That type of show that represents the idea of letting your imagination go to work is what Disney stands for, and is a great show for us to be associated with.’

The approach the channel takes to new markets varies based on how familiar territories are with the Disney brand. So what may work for Italy, which has known Disney since the `30s, may not work in Malaysia. ‘Their [markets'] experience with what Disney is, how they interpret it, what it means it them, and how they live their lives is very different from region to region,’ says David Hulbert, senior vice president and general manager of broadcasting for Walt Disney Television International.

Sidebar: Disney by market

Taiwan-March 1995

United Kingdom-October 1995

Malaysia-October 1995

Australia-June 1996

France-March 1997

Middle East-April 1997

Spain-April 1998

Upcoming:

Italy-Fall 1998

Philippines-1998

Germany-1999

Latin America-TBA

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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