- 1 Industrial Analysis
- 2 Textual Analysis
- 2.1 Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
- 2.2 Hannah Montana
- 3 Audience & Online Analysis
- 4 References
The Disney Channel is a basic cable channel owned by the Disney-ABC Television Group division (under President Anne Sweeney) of the Walt Disney Company. It is broadcast nationwide in United States, as well as in over 160 other countries, many of which have international versions of the channel that broadcast a mix of American shows and original international programs and movies. Currently, the Disney Channel broadcasts both self-produced movies (e.g. High School Musical) and shows (e.g. Hannah Montana) along with classic Disney movies such as Finding Nemo and The Lion King. The channel's programming is marketed towards children ages 6-14, with younger children's programs in the morning and older children's programming in the afternoon/evening. Additionally, these demographic divisions are further accentuated in the Disney Channel's sister cable channels, including Disney XD (males aged 7-14), Disney Junior (preschoolers), and the former Toon Disney (ages 6-12).
The Disney Channel began broadcasting on April 18, 1983 and was founded by the President at the time, Alan Wagner (Hevesi 2007). The first program that was ever shown on the channel was an episode of the Mickey Mouse Club from the 1950s (Butler 2010). During the day, the channel began showing such programs as Good Morning, Mickey!, Donald Duck Presents, Contraption, Dumbo's Circus, You and Me Kid and Welcome to Pooh Corner and at night aired reruns of classics such as The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. They also began showing several foreign animated series such as Asterix and Paddington Bear (Disney Channel History 2010).
As of December 1986, the channel, which was on premium cable (Mazzarella 2007), began to air for the full 24 hours as it had previously been showing programs from 7am to 1am. In the 1980s, Disney channel developed a few hit programs such as Kids Incorporated (1984) and the revival of an old staple, Mickey Mouse, with The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (1989) with many of today’s stars playing parts in the show, including Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling, and Justin Timberlake (Disney Channel History 2010). Then, the Disney channel in the late 1990s reworked its look and divided up the channel into three sections: Playhouse Disney, meant for preschoolers played in the morning, Vault Disney in the early afternoon and Zoog Disney from late afternoon to late evening, both for older age groups (Preston 2004). It was at this point that Disney began its promos for its own programs, called break interruptions which were not advertising commercials and were intended to make Disney look more child-friendly . When Disney became a basic cable in 1996, it introduced two new logos: one for the channel and one for the Zoog section, trying to expand its audience. These logos lasted until 2002, when the current logo was introduced. In the same year as the introduction of the two new logos, Anne Sweeney, the woman now said to be "one of the most powerful women in entertainment", joined Disney as the president of the Disney Channel.
As the children's channel developed its older audience demographic under this new president as of 2000, programs were modified to follow this new trend - partly spurred by the change in logo. This lead to shows such as Even Stevens, Lizzie McGuire, That's So Raven and Kim Possible, which became very popular, according to the ratings. After classic Disney channel material was taken off the air in September 2002, as already mentioned, the channel’s logo changed again to mark a fresh start. The Vault and Zoog Disney were removed from the channel and the kid’s channel went through some remodeling, with drama and reality series being taken off and the focus being shifted to live-action comedies and animated series.
In 2004, Anne Sweeney, the current president of the kid's channel, successfully geared Disney Channel to making a profit through promoting teen music stars. In 2005, That's So Raven became the network's highest-rated series of all time, closely followed in 2006 by an extremely successful Hannah Montana. 2006 also marked the start of the famous High School Musical which spurred a sequel and a film and was a big hit among all age groups. Today, Disney Channel is one of the most-watched cable channels in the United States, with some series averaging around three million viewers. Also, due to some fans of the channel complaining about the exclusion of Mickey Mouse and Company, there are now allotted time slots on the channel for the famous Mouse and his friends.
Disney Channel schedules its programming according to what appeals best to its viewers throughout the day. In the early morning, through until 1pm Disney airs programming for young children who are not yet in school or not yet in school the whole day. After 1pm and until 4am the next day, Disney airs programming aimed at older audiences, because that is when preteens and teenagers are home at their TV screens.
The programs on today for toddlers and Pre-K children are: Tasty Time, Little Einsteins, Dance-A-Lot, Jungle Junction, Timmy Time, and Mickey Mouse. These shows are appropriate for all ages. The programs on today for older children are: The Suite Life on Deck, Wizards of Waverly Place, Good Luck, Charlie, Hannah Montana Forever, and Jonas L.A.
Disney Channel also produces some of their own films and airs them on their channel. Films such as: Halloweentown (I and II and III), Cadet Kelly, The Cheetah Girls (three movies), Camp Rock (two movies), The Color of Friendship, Get a Clue, High School Musical (three movies), and Zenon (all three movies). Often, Disney chooses actors from their primetime shows to be main characters in their movies. For example, Lizzie McGuire, played by Hilary Duff plays Kelly in Cadet Kelly. Or sometimes, after a movie is aired, one or more of the actors will become a regular on a show, as in the case of Demi Lovato, who starred in Disney's Original Movie Camp Rock (and its sequel Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam) and later starred as the main character in the show Sonny With A Chance.
Disney’s intended audiences are preschoolers, young children, pre-teens and young adolescents but it has gained so much popularity in recent years that it even has viewers outside the main target audience, making teens idols out of some of the channel stars (Preston 2004). It specifically created Playhouse Disney for its preschoolers, playing these programs in the morning, followed by programs oriented to older children coming home from school. Based on the most recent ratings, published on September 28, 2010, Playhouse Disney’s Mickey Mouse Clubhouse ranked as TV’s No. 3 preschool series among target Kids 2-5 demo. Furthermore, in the same report, Disney was named “TV’s No. 1 Network in Total Day Among Kids 6-11 and tweens 9-14”. This past quarter also set records in television ratings showing that there is increasing viewership for this channel. Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, a program oriented to the older viewers, was also the top movie in terms of viewers (9.1 million) and tweens (2.6 million aged 9 to 14). In addition, Hannah Montana Forever and Good Luck Charlie topped second place in targeting the 6-11 and 9-14 Demographics .
Advertising and Marketing
Since its inception in 1983, the Disney Channel has marketed itself as a commercial-free family channel, distinguishing it from other channels such as Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, which both regularly air commercials. Originally operating as a commercial-free premium channel, where viewers had to pay a monthly fee to receive the channel , they switched over to basic cable in 1996 in hopes of increasing their viewership and competing with Nickelodeon’s consistently high ratings. However, despite changing to a basic cable channel, they kept their non-commercial approach until 2002, where they began to occasionally promote sponsors before and after shows . Aside from the limited sponsorships, the Disney Channel remains committed to not running any advertisement spots during their programming. While their style of commercial-free programming might at first seem counterintuitive, the Disney Channel is able to successfully compete in the children’s market for several reasons, which will further be elaborated on in the following passages.
First, the Disney Channel has been extremely successful and adroit in their strategy of self-promotion and self-marketing, generating significant amounts of revenue via their merchandising and the integration of the Disney Channel into movies, CDs, books, video games, concerts, theme park rides, plush dolls, board games, apparel, jewelry, toys, and even food (they recently promoted their “Official Hannah Montana Concert Candy”, which included gummies in the shape of guitars and microphones). Instead of selling airtime to advertisers in-between shows, they constantly promote their own original shows, movies, concerts, and anything related to the Disney empire, creating a channel that is, as Norma Odom Pecora has described, “one long advertisement for the Walt Disney empire” . Indeed, the Disney Channel capitalizes on its ability to horizontally integrate its shows and characters, promoting the channel and its programming through multiple entertainment outlets, all which bear the Disney brand name. The channel itself relies on the larger Disney empire to promote its programming, essentially functioning as just another gear in the corporate machine that is Disney.
In order to fully understand the reach and success of the Disney Channel’s innovative marketing strategy of horizontal integration, let’s focus on one of its most successful shows, Hannah Montana. The series debuted in 2006, and in its second season, it broke the record for the highest rated basic cable series telecast of all time, with 10.7 million viewers  for one episode. On most basic cable channels, ratings like that would result in the channel significantly increasing their price for a 30-second or 60-second airtime slot and making some serious profit. However, the Disney Channel has generated its profit from Hannah Montana not by selling airtime, but by selling Hannah Montana itself; by creating concerts, albums, films, and original novelizations of the series.
In other words, the success of the Disney Channel is not necessarily reflected in the high ratings of its programming, but in the channel’s ability to market and literally sell its programming to anyone who’s willing to buy. And the money just keeps rolling in. The first Hannah Montana movie has pulled in a total worldwide gross of $70,642,036, while the second movie racked in a total worldwide gross of $155,545,279 . The buck doesn’t stop there; the soundtrack albums have reached sales of over 13.2 million in the U.S. alone . Indeed, it is evident that the Disney Channel’s strategy of marketing via horizontal integration has proved successful, largely due to its association with the well-established Disney brand name.
Aside from its profitable merchandising strategy, the Disney Channel uses another unique marketing strategy that appeals to both children and their parents: a pro-social message that tries to convince parents that by having their kids watch the commercial-free Disney Channel, they won’t be exposed to the world of marketing and advertising that other channels like Nickelodeon show. The non-commercial aspect of the channel is a key feature to the Disney Channel that truly separates it from any other channel that shows children’s programming, with PBS Kids being the exception. But the truth of the matter is that the Disney Channel is advertising to its viewers, perhaps even more so than any other channel with children’s programming. Its self-marketing has been completely overlooked by parents, who see the channel as free from commercial influence and a wholesome, pro-social place that welcomes their children and never throws commercials at them.
On their website, the Disney Channel describes how they accept limited sponsorships, “with a focus on pro-social messages” . They detail their guidelines for any sponsorship that airs on the channel and describe how it must be not be “deceptive” or “exploitative” in any way, appealing towards an anti-consumerism philosophy, only airing advertising that promotes the greater good. This message seems targeted directly at parents, who support this approach to make advertising more of a moral and pro-social message instead of a strictly corporate one. In their article on online advertising, Andrew Hampp and Jack Neff describe how the Disney Channel has teamed up with Clorox to create online branded entertainment, which technically goes against the channels philosophy of being non-commercial. However, the authors argue that by marketing through the medium of the Internet, they haven’t had to “sacrifice their identity” as a commercial-free TV channel . Instead, they are successfully able to target their viewers online through advertisements that don’t necessarily meet the pro-social message that they preach.
The last merchandising strategy employed by the Disney Channel is its tactic of using audience interaction and the viewers themselves to promote the product. Debra Goldman, in her article on the Disney Channel, refers to their commercial-free approach as a strategy used to fuel the corporate machine that is Disney. Instead of traditional advertising where the company directly tries to the sell the product, she argues that the Disney Channel uses the viewers themselves to help the market the channel . By focusing on audience interaction during their programming and promotion-commercials for other shows by constantly telling the viewer to “go online”, or to satisfy their craving for a show, they pull the viewer in and directly tell them to support the channel, creating a mutually beneficial relationship that satisfies both the consumer and the marketer. In other words, by watching the Disney Channel, they will provide the programming that you want to see, and they constantly tell you to watch as a sort-of reminder that without you watching, they couldn’t exist. The channel brings the viewers in, causing them to feel an obligation to support a channel that vocally appreciates and recognizes its viewers as part of the programming.
This strategy has proved quite effective, as the active engagement of the viewers causes them to keep coming back for more. Additionally, they have created an online community on their website, allowing users to create their own pages, share their favorite Disney channel shows, and play online games against other Disney channel fans. This strategy of connecting viewers via the medium of the Internet has allowed the Disney channel to let the viewers themselves promote what they enjoy about the channel, which is a brilliant marketing strategy that makes the viewer feel like they are as important to the channel as the shows and original Disney movies themselves. Increased social networking creates a dedicated fan base that will support the channel and likely be introduced to new shows and merchandise via interactions with other users.
Today, the Disney Channel continues to use the marketing strategies of selling merchandise, promoting a pro-social message, and engaging the audience to successfully generate profit on a commercial-free channel. These three tactics allow the channel to avoid dealing with the backlash that has erupted against product placement, and give parents the sense that their child is not being exposed to the advertising world, while in truth, they are. The channel’s unique approach has been met with some recent criticism, however, as is explained in the next section.
Praise and Criticism
Disney Channel is not met with a lot of criticism. It exists, but most people like Disney Channel and what it does:
"For most Americans, "Disney" is synonymous with entertainment, childhood and family values. Disney signifies a special place of celebratory play and uncomplicated amusement. In addition, Disney acts as a register of a golden age of innocence- an imaginary time in an imaginary past. . . Disney appeals to many of us through a complex affective process where we negotiate our beliefs, values, desires, and expectations in the realm of pleasure and meaning."  Most, if not all of the criticism Disney Channel gets is directed mostly at The Disney Corporation. The Disney Corporation is seen as a multi-billion dollar corporation that does not always have the people in mind. Disney has come under fire in the past for not equally representing people of color in their movies and programs  .
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse
Disney's Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is the first computer generated (CG) 3-D animation television series to feature Mickey Mouse and his friends (Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, Goofy, and Pluto) together. ("Mickey Mouse Clubhouse") Each program tries to stimulate the young audiences, encouraging active participation in the program. Mickey, who is usually trying to solve a problem or trying to go to a specific location, asks for the viewer’s “help”. (Wiseman, 2010) It premiered on primetime on May 5th 2006 but production for a new series recently was suspended following the death of long-time Mickey Mouse voice artist, Wayne Allwine in May 2009. (McLellan, 2009)
Constructing Target Audience
The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is geared mainly towards toddlers, preschoolers and young children in the 2-5 year old demographic but it also encourages older age-groups to watch the program with these younger children. Adults, who remember their favorite childhood TV programs, could also be interested in this modern version of the program that they used to watch as a child. Disney has thus created this broader audience by reviving an old idea that has captivated people around the world for over 75 years and introducing it to a new generation. ("Mickey Mouse Clubhouse")
It should also be noted, however, that this program was created partly due to complaints that the founding icon of Disney was not represented enough on the modern channel.(Disney Channel) Disney, in fact, managed to kill two birds with one stone. Parents who carefully scrutinized everything that their children watched remember the high points of their childhood and most certainly want the same for their children. Disney motivates parents to watch the program with their children and at the same time subtly conveys the message to parents that this is the best program in its category, since it has been running for so long.
The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is educational in a fun way – another aspect that parents like about it and that make them more likely to allow their children to watch it. The program makes use of its theme or subject to teach basic knowledge to the children, such as vocabulary, early mathematical problems, color recognition, identifying shapes, patterns and numbers and also solving picture puzzles. (Disney Corporation) Mickey then acknowledges viewers’ answers and cheers them on, often congratulating them on their answer. Thus the program prepares preschoolers for kindergarten and makes them think about moral issues, constantly teaching lessons and introducing ideas about the right way to behave socially. ("Mickey Mouse Clubhouse")
As already mentioned, each program concerns a mystery or problem that needs to be solved by the heroes of the show with the help of the audience and their participation. Even the opening moments of the show need help from the audience when Mickey asks viewers to join him in saying: “Meeska Mooska Mickey Mouse”. (Disney Corporation) This approach allows young children to be active while watching TV with their brain still “on” as they enjoy the program. It attracts young children who are just beginning to talk. The show is very learning-focused and is engaging without being intimidating. ("Mickey Mouse Clubhouse")
Cultural Meanings of the Channel’s Brand
Disney is known for not advertising on its channel per se but it does make use of many merchandising techniques to make a profit. The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is no exception with DVDs sold of the episodes with bonus material and fun activities, DVDs of full-length adventures such as Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Road Rally, (Disney Dreaming) CDs of the music from the show by the Grammy-Award winning “They Might be Giants” group, ("Mickey Mouse Clubhouse") games and toys based on the characters and the stories and many more ideas meant to attract the younger generation that watches the program.
Since the channel also wants to be seen as educational, it specifically promotes this aspect of the show for that purpose, but also to be parent-friendly. Furthermore, it creates interaction not only between Mickey and the children but also between the parents and their sons and daughters who can then discuss the issues that the episode raised, its message or theme and the story, characters or tools that were in it. Thanks to Disney, knowledge, understanding and interaction is increased.
The characters from the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse are well-known today because they were on the first program to be aired on the channel, Good Morning Mickey, in 1983. (Disney Channel: History) Mickey Mouse especially became the channel’s icon appearing on their logos over the years and even still to this day. All the characters from that first program were remodeled in this modern revamp of Mickey with its new “fun-house” ("Mickey Mouse Clubhouse") full of gadgets and excitement. The new Mickey and his friends are now computer generated 3-D animations produced by the Walt Disney Television Animation Company and since 2008 "boasts" an Emmy nomination. ("Mickey Mouse Clubhouse", Kramer-Teheran, 2010) Thus, Disney has full control over all the production, distribution and transmission aspects of the program. The show is currently still producing its third season which will air on the Disney Channel through 2011. Disney has also announced a 4th season set to air on the upcoming “Disney Junior” channel, the new 24-hour basic cable/satellite channel for pre-school aged children. (Kramer-Teheran, 2010)
Finally, concerning scheduling, reruns of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse are shown every day, dominating the morning programming from 8am to 9.30am and then from 11.30am until 12.30am. It is considered the number one children’s show now on the Disney Channel with 14 million unduplicated viewers in 158 countries. The program has also been translated into 28 different languages.(Disney Channel TV Schedule)
Hannah Montana, currently airing Sundays at 8 pm EST on the Disney Channel and Saturday mornings on ABC Kids, is one of the most popular shows ever to air on the Disney Channel. Debuting on March 24, 2006, the 30-minute teen sitcom follows the double life of Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus), an average teenage girl and Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus), her famous pop star alter-ego. The show has consistently received Emmy nominations for Outstanding Children’s Program as well as consistently high ratings. The series is the epitome of successful marketing and horizontal integration, as the Disney Channel has profited from the success of Hannah Montana through excessive merchandizing strategies. Currently the show is running through its final season, marketed as Hannah Montana Forever, which premiered July 11, 2010.
Constructing Target Audience
The target audience of Hannah Montana is primarily teenage girls, who aspire to the character Miley Stewart, portrayed as an average teenage girl who happens to life a second “fantasy” life as a pop star. The show constructs this target audience through a number of strategies.
The first primary strategy that “Hannah Montana” uses to attract teenage girls is through its portrayal of stereotypical male and female characters, both younger and older. In terms of males, all of the recurring male characters on the show are portrayed as clumsy, obnoxious, incoherent boys who are mostly unaware of their ridiculous antics. In the pilot episode, Miley’s “crush” becomes convinced that ketchup is used as hand lotion, rubbing it on his hands during the episode. In addition, Miley’s brother is also the subject of ridicule, as he concocts an exercise plan to impress other girls and dresses up later as Hannah Montana, wearing a blonde wig and a dress. This portrayal of boys as the subject of physical humor is a strategy used to attract teenage girls, who can relate to feeling confused about the antics of boys, even though the show is an exaggeration of reality.
In terms of the teenage girls on the show, they are seen as more literate and emotionally-driven then the males, and often communicate their feelings of anger or happiness. At the end of the pilot episode, Miley and her best friend Lilly have a long conversation about Miley’s secret life as Hannah Montana and why Miley chose not to tell Lilly. While filled with the occasional punch line, their conversation is surprisingly mature, and reinforces the stereotype of females openly and easily expressing their emotions, contrasted to the simple-minded nature of boys. This gender superiority likely is used to attract females to the show who see themselves as similar to the lead female characters. Despite this positive image of mature females, the show consistently promotes consumerism, constructing the female identity as one that is highly influenced by fashion and appearance. Throughout episodes of the show, Miley is treated to a butler, a large house, and an enormous wardrobe that is explored by Miley and Lilly in the premiere episode. This portrayal of consumerism as part of the female identity may not be ideal in the eyes of feminists, but it certainly is used successfully in the construction of the show’s target audience.
The last strategy used by Hannah Montana to construct its target audience is the world in which the show portrays. The entire premise of the show is unrealistic, showing the life of a teenage pop star who is unrecognized by her classmates when she isn’t wearing a blonde wig. In addition, the fantasy world of Hannah Montana is unrealistic, as she is able to make decisions about her career throughout the episodes that would never be allowed in the real world. This unrealistic power granted to a teenage girl is quite attractive to teens watching the show, who likely aspire to live like Hannah Montana does and have complete control over their lives and the people in them. The show serves as an escape from the real world and portrays a world where the characters all have great families, great friends, and control over their lives that most normal children do not have.
Cultural Meanings of the Channel’s Brand
Hannah Montana fits nicely into the Disney Channel brand by promoting family values, consumerism, and by offering an alternative role-model who embodies innocence. In terms of family values, the notion of a stable family as seen through Miley’s relationship with her father is a strategy used to attract parents and families, fitting nicely into the Disney Channel brand of family-oriented programming. Throughout the series, Miley constantly approaches her father with issues that she is having with her friends, especially with Lilly. While her father is portrayed as less emotionally intelligent than a female, he does offer advice to her and truly cares about the relationships in her life, constantly reminding her how proud he is of her success. Their mature relationship attracts families who view the Disney Channel as family-oriented.
Aside from traditional family values, Hannah Montana portrays consumerism in a positive light, which (as previously mentioned) is used as a strategy to construct a teenage girl audience. And while the Disney Channel brand is vocally against consumerism, they are actually a vastly-networked, horizontally integrated merchandizing machine that allows them to profit from merchandise and not have to advertise on the channel. Therefore, consumerism can be considered part of the Disney Channel brand, even though the channel doesn’t acknowledge it. The show promotes the consumerist lifestyle led by Hannah Montana through both Miley’s satisfaction with her superstar alter-ego or through her friends’ admiration of her success and abundance of “nice things”.
Finally, the show portrays Miley Stewart / Hannah Montana as a positive role model who embodies innocence and stands out from current female role models. The topics of the episodes never involve anything risqué and most of the humor is derived from simple physical comedy. This construction of a good role model for teenage girls fits nicely into the innocent nature that the Disney Channel strives for, creating programs that are family-friendly and appeal to children and teenagers. This strategy, similar to the family values strategy, is also meant to attract parents who are trying to expose their teenage daughters to positive female representations.
Hannah Montana is produced by “It’s a Laugh Productions, Inc.” and “Michael Poryes Productions”, in association with “Disney Channel Original Productions”. While at first glance this multitude of production companies may appear to be reflective of a non-vertically integrated program, Hannah Montana is just the opposite. “It’s a Laugh Productions, Inc.” is owned by The Walt Disney Company, producing a number of current Disney Channel live-action sitcoms, including Good Luck Charlie and Wizards of Waverly Place. Michael Poryes is the co-creator of the show, and also served as executive producer of the Disney Channel hit series That’s So Raven. Indeed, it is evident that through its relationship to the production companies, the Disney Channel has complete control over the show’s content, erasing any potential conflict between the three stages in the programming exchange. This cutting out of the middle man directly connects the production to the ownership structure of the show, reinforcing the ever-powerful empire that is The Walt Disney Company.
Currently airing new episodes Sundays at 8 pm EST, Hannah Montana is scheduled to end on November 7, 2010 with an hour-long series finale. The Disney Channel likely chose Sundays at 8 pm in order to target both teenage girls and their families. Choosing Sunday, a day where most adults aren’t working and most teenage girls are done with work from school, the primetime airings can draw in high ratings, consistently reaching up to 3-4 million viewers. Hannah Montana fits nicely into the Disney Channel’s primetime scheduling strategies, as the channel uses the 7 pm – 10 pm timeframe to air new episodes of its most popular series, along with classic Disney movies and new Disney Channel original movies. By establishing the primetime timeslot as their outlet for premiering episodes and movies, the Disney Channel is attempting to draw parents (who otherwise would be watching primetime network television) into the “hodgepodge of homogeny” that is the Disney Channel. (Note: By “hodgepodge of homogeny”, we are referring to the notion that while the Disney Channel airs an abundant number of shows on their channel, almost all of them conform to the formulaic teenage sitcom genre with stereotypical characters and unoriginal plotlines.)
In addition to airing the series during the primetime hours and attracting its target audience, the Disney Channel occasionally produces “crossover episodes” which combine characters from different original series into a “mega-episode” consisting of multiple parts. For example, on July 17, 2009, the channel aired a special Wizards on Deck with Hannah Montana, a trilogy of episodes that included characters from Wizards of Waverly Place, The Suite Life on Deck, and Hannah Montana and drew in 10.6 million viewers (Seidman 2009). Not only do the crossover episodes bring in high ratings, but they allow audiences of one teenage sitcom to be exposed to and drawn into watching other similar series. In terms of scheduling, these special episodes generally air during primetime and fit into the brilliant scheduling strategies of the Disney Channel. All three of the shows in the 2009 crossover episode normally aired new episodes at 8 pm on different days, creating a consistent time period where teenagers can tune in every night and watch a new episode of a 30-minute sitcom. This consistency in scheduling allows viewers to not have to wonder about when new episodes will air.
Despite its consistent airings of new episodes in the evenings, reruns of Hannah Montana are aired seven days a week at staggered times, from 12:30 am to more common after-school times like 2:30 pm (Disney Channel TV Schedule). This strategy of airing reruns throughout the day is a two-fold strategy; the rerun episodes can help devoted viewers catch up on episodes that they missed, while at the same time providing an outlet for converting potentially new viewers into consistent fans. Indeed, the Disney Channel employs a number of scheduling strategies in order to gain and maintain a large audience for Hannah Montana, and to place the series into the traditional primetime slot where it has consistently placed its most popular programs.
Audience & Online Analysis
The Disney Channel’s website offers many options for its visitors. Users can talk to friends in a virtual world, play games, create art, shop online at the Disney Store, or even plan vacations at the Disney theme parks. Across the top of the homepage, visitors can follow links to different parts of the online Disney world: movies, TV, music, live events, books, parks & travel, and store. Below that another list of different links can be found from: characters & stars, to games, videos, a “create” page, and finally, a personal area for members only, called “my page”.
The “characters and stars” page takes users to a page with detailed biographies on all of the Disney characters- from movies, TV shows, as well as classic characters and music stars.
On the “video” page, fans can watch clips from most of the Disney Channel shows. Most videos are very short pitches that give an idea of the show but the channel’s more popular programs like Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place have full episodes uploaded to the page. Also, in this part of the site, trailers for Disney’s newest upcoming like TRON: Legacy and Tangled can be found as well as music videos from the channel’s popular movies and TV shows. Fans can rate videos and save them onto their personal accounts. They can also share the videos they see online via email with friends and family.
Furthermore, visitors to Disney.go.com can play games online. If they create an account and select a screen name, they can earn points, “favorite” a game, send it to online or offline friends, and/or rate games. On the same game page, there is even a game blog specifically for talking about the games on the website. The blogs are run by the creators, who often post new updates or interesting facts about the games. Some of the more popular activities, like The World of Cars Online, receive more than 100 replies to posts.
The create page is meant for users who enjoy making their own drawings online. It has galleries of the fans’ art, different applications that allow fans to either make drawings, mashups (two pictures of artists combined), songs, or comics. The page also allows users to share their artwork with others by posting it on the “shared by others” section.
The “my page” section of the website is for members to design in their own way. It allows users to post their favorite drawings from the create page and their favorite games and high scores from the game page. This part of the website is also a “shout-out board” where one can see the other users’ messages on the site. It should be noted that none of the shout-outs frame Disney shows or characters negatively. Throughout all the different pages, users are invited to participate in a poll where a different question in asked each week. One example is for instance: “Cutest doggone Disney couple? Lady and Tramp, Pongo and Perdita, Papi and Chloe, and Pluto and Fifi.” The results are then published on the top of the page the following week.
Although Disney Channel does not have a lot of different outside advertisers on their channel, the website is not this strict and has several different advertisements on its pages. All are age appropriate though. Some of the advertisers are: Kellogg’s PopTarts and cereals, Pillsbury, Puffs tissues, Wii and Xbox video games, Disney movies, both on DVD and those premiering in the theaters, Disney TV shows and movies to air solely on the channel, “got milk?” ads, Hallmark, and asthma medication. Disney also runs a campaign for a greener world called “Disney Friends for Change: Project Green”. One way they publicize this campaign is by having a page on the website where users can create and share art in an “environmentally safe” way by sending it to friends.
The Disney website runs its own fan site called “Disney23 The Official Disney Fan Club”. Users who become members receive tips and discounts to parks and Disney merchandise, subscriptions to their quarterly magazine Disney twenty-three and their biweekly email publication D23 FanFare, and exclusive offers like discounted tickets to the D23 Expo. Gold membership costs $74.99 and Silver membership costs $34.99. On the site there is also an online store, Boutique23, for rare and exclusive collectibles, like pins and artwork.
Members can find many articles online about Disney and Disney characters, Disney staff, as well as videos about upcoming projects. There are positive reviews of Disney movies with messages that encourage readers to buy the DVD set because of its special features. Members of Disney Official Fan Club can also get insider tips about planning holidays and birthdays. In many ways, the Disney Fans Insider site is geared toward adults. The website design itself is not as colorful and interactive and the material is not so much for children, but more for parents who like Disney and like the fact that their kids watch Disney. Members are encouraged to submit their own stories about favorite Disney experiences. The stories are called “spotlights” and highlight fond memories of members at Disney theme parks or watching Disney shows and/or movies at home. Disney’s official fan site publicizes Disney Geek, a video blog where different people who have been or currently are involved in Disney are interviewed about their projects and jobs. There is another video blog that follows the history of Disney, called Disney Archives. In one episode of the program, for instance, Walt Disney’s office was revealed to the public. The site also posts latest news about the company.
Disney has its own channel on youtube.com with 42,921 subscribers and over 1 million views. It follows the website’s advertising patterns of mostly self-promotion. Interestingly, there are not many Disney fan sites created by viewers. In general, Disney Channel audiences seem content with the official website. The majority of unofficial Disney fan sites consist in news and updates of the female artists of the channel (like dcfans.tv) and only talk about their attractiveness and appeal to other male viewers. However, there is one site that is fairly popular that is not created by Disney: fanpop.com. “Fanpop is a network of user-generated fan clubs for different topics of interest created and maintained by the community of fans. Each fan club has a bunch of really cool features that empower the fans to share and discover content and interact with each other,”. This fan site was created by four men from San Francisco who “wanted to make discovering and sharing of content [of shows] fun, easy and social,”. The Disney Channel site on fanpop.com has images, videos, polls, and articles that users have uploaded. There are also pop quizzes and links to other sites. There is a forum as well, where users can talk about the shows freely discussing different topics, some negative and some positive. There is also a “wall” (similar to the shout out feature on the official website) on the site where users in real time can post comments or thoughts. There is also some advertising on this site. It is mostly promoting Payless BONGO, Tom’s, and Nintendo DS games. The fan site has 3578 fans.
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