Just as the prevalence of touchscreen devices grows among preschoolers, so too is Disney’s continued investment in interactive content experiences.
This week in the UK, Disney unveiled its brand-new Disney Junior Play app for iOS smartphones and tablets that lets preschoolers interact with their favorite Disney Junior characters via more than 20 games, music videos and sticker books that encourage creativity, logical thinking skills and hand-eye coordination.
The non-commercial app is free to download and includes themed in-app purchase packs that are adult-only accessible and feature Disney Junior properties Sofia the First, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, and Jake and the Never Land Pirates.
Its launch in the UK is timely given the fact that nearly 10% of UK kids receive their first mobile phone by age five and a quarter of British kids under the age of eight have tablets, according to a 2014 study by UK-based price comparison service uSwitch. The study also found that British parents expect to spend more on children’s tech in 2014.
Coinciding with the launch of Disney Junior Play, Disney UK unveiled new research findings that reflect how games and apps can improve the lives of on-the-go parents and kids.
After polling 5,000 British parents with children under the age of 10 to find out the techniques used by families to stay happy during journeys, Disney UK found that more than eight out of 10 (83%) of the UK parents surveyed agree that tablets and smartphones can help to relieve car boredom.
Beyond the UK, similar mobile device trends are further strengthening Disney’s resolve to invest in mobile app experiences for toddlers.
According to a 2013 Common Sense Media Research Study entitled Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use in America, 38% of children under two have used a mobile device for media, compared to 10% two years ago, and the percentage of children who use mobile devices on a daily basis–at least once a day or more – has more than doubled, from 8% to 17%.
With mobile usage skyrocketing, Disney plans to expand the content offering of its successful Disney Junior Appisodes app, which just reached its one-year milestone.
Since its App Store debut, Appisodes has been downloaded 3.7 million times worldwide and boasts 234 million sessions played, as well as 11 million hours spent playing by its kid users ages two to seven. It’s also been a mainstay at the top of the Kids iTunes charts globally.
The app now features nine appisodes with touch and talk interactive activities embedded within full episodes of popular Disney Junior shows including Sofia the First and Doc McStuffins.
Lauren DeVillier, VP of digital media for Disney Channels Worldwide, says the interactive elements continue to resonate with users.
“We really hit a note with kids and parents making the appisodes interactive. We are continuing to invest in creating these and are releasing them fairly regularly within the Disney Junior Appisode container featuring our priority series and content,” says DeVillier.
“When we launched it a year ago, it was such a new concept for our consumers, but we continue to innovate because kids are becoming more sophisticated in the usage and the expectation of apps.”
Disney is also riding high on its suite of WATCH apps for Disney Channel, Disney XD, and Disney Junior. To date, they have generated a whopping 1.6 billion video views and 20 million downloads.
Of note in the preschool space, the January TV debut of Sheriff Callie’s Wild West drew record ratings on the US Disney Junior block after accumulating more than 23 million video views from November to January, launching app-first via the WATCH Disney Junior app for iOS devices.
“We’re reaching consumers not only on TV but through the digital platforms they are on the most. I only see this as a growing market for us,” says DeVillier.
Interestingly, the ongoing success of Disney Junior Appisodes and the WATCH apps, as well as the launch of Disney Junior Play, come on the heels of Disney Interactive cutting 26% of the division’s global workforce in early March after acute losses in its social gaming sector.
According to the company, it will now focus more effort on licensed games and narrow its in-house production of mobile and social products.
Despite the downsizing, the House of Mouse’s interactive segment saw its sales jump 38% to US$403 million in the first fiscal quarter of 2014, mainly driven by the early success of Disney Infinity.