More Mickey, Lion Guard (and data) as Disney kicks off 2017 upfronts

Disney-ABC ad sales president Rita Ferro dishes on the data-backed DNA behind the Mouse House's 2017 upfronts, with highlights that include renewals for Mickey and the Roadster Racers and The Lion Guard.
March 16, 2017

As part of Disney Media Sales and Marketing’s month-long upfront presentations, the House of Mouse has announced that Mickey and the Roadster Racers and The Lion Guard will be returning for additional seasons on Disney Junior.

Mickey and the Roadster Racers, which has reached more than 41 million US viewers since its January premiere, has been greenlit for a second season, while a third season of The Lion Guard is also in the pipeline. The latter, which will debut a second season this summer, ranked as 2016′s number-one series across preschooler networks in total viewers and kids ages two to five.

The pickups come as Disney continues to woo advertisers and sponsors during its annual kids upfront period, and they are among the 12 new series, 28 current series, and three new original movies that Disney is unveiling this month.

Presenting the theme Disney DNA in meetings this week at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the company’s 2017/18 upfront also zeroes in on how the Mouse House is measuring data and leveraging its rich storytelling heritage across its content lineup and the upcoming DisneyNOW app.

Launching later this year, DisneyNOW will integrate all three Disney WATCH apps and provide more content, personalization and sponsorship opportunities.

On the heritage front, Disney-ABC ad sales president Rita Ferro points to the recently launched series adaptation of the hit feature Tangled and the upcoming Big Hero 6 series as prime examples of Disney properties its clients know and love.

“Heritage is such an important theme for us in terms of the shows we are bringing to market. People are familiar with them, and they are being retold and reimagined for new audiences,” says Ferro.

As for measuring consumer engagement, Disney has also strengthened its data systems and analysis because, according to Ferro, Nielsen’s linear TV ratings don’t offer the full picture.

“There is such a lack of valid measurement across multiple screens, especially when you look at the kids market place,” she says. “When buyers are looking at how to measure and attribute what’s going on across screens to what they are doing in terms of campaigns, it’s really challenging. It’s up to us as publishers to help our partners do this.”

To remedy the situation, Ferro and her Disney Media sales team have been presenting tools for its partners to leverage Disney’s first-party data.

Based on Disney’s proprietary multiplatform ratings tool and a 2016 LMX Family study by market research firm Ipsos, findings include the fact that 43% of kids who multitask while watching TV also use a second screen to play online games. In fact, online gaming is the most popular web activity among kids who are multitasking on the web.

Notably, 33% of time spent with media by kids ages six to 12 happens on devices not measured by Nielsen—mobile, tablet and desktop/laptop—meaning that 28% of Disney video impressions are served on devices/platforms that are not measured.

But perhaps most compelling: Disney’s total audience metrics revealed double-digit ratings increases for select content when factoring in time spent viewing across platforms.

“Using our data informs how we think about what content we create, how we market it and how we plug our partners into it to ensure all of the emotional connections we create tie in from a brand perspective for better lift, purchase intent and halo effect,” says Ferro.

And because Disney Channel relies more on sponsorships than ads, Ferro notes the importance of building branded content experiences because clients are looking for fewer and bigger returns.

“It’s really important for people to know that our relationship with our audience is a way they can access fewer and bigger bets with Disney,” she says.

One recent deal that exemplified how a partner can take full advantage of Disney DNA, according to Ferro, was the company’s agreement with Nintendo for its newly launched console-to-mobile gaming system, Switch.

During Nintendo’s interactive, multi-city preview tour for Switch, Disney talent Joey Bragg (Liv and Maddie), Jenna Ortega (Stuck in the Middle) and Kamil McFadden and Veronica Dunne (K.C. Undercover) hosted live social media takeovers not only from Disney’s traditional platforms but across its Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snap accounts, too.

“Historically, we’ve done a great job working with them [Switch is Disney's fourth integrated campaign with Nintendo], but this time they wanted to take advantage of our talent in a bigger way,” says Ferro. “Nintendo has really been at the forefront of understanding the value of talent as an influencer and how to entirely integrate marketing campaigns.”

Additional upfront announcements across Disney Channel and Disney XD, and spanning linear TV, online, digital and mobile platforms, radio and social media, are expected to follow in the coming days. 


About The Author
Jeremy is the Features Editor of Kidscreen specializing in the content production, broadcasting and distribution aspects of the global children's entertainment industry. Contact Jeremy at


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