Thursday, January 08, 2009

Because boys need even more attention.

Disney to target boys with rebranded cable channel, by Dawn C. Chmielewski at LA Times.

The entertainment giant plans to relaunch Toon Disney as Disney XD [on Friday, February 13, at 12 midnight], which will be aimed at boys ages 6 to 14.

. . . the Disney Channel has struggled for years to find the right programming formula to lure boys, who tend to gravitate to Viacom’s Nickelodeon and Time Warner’s Cartoon Network – that is, when they’re not spending time playing video games. The Disney Channel’s popular live-action shows, from its early tween phenomenon, “Lizzie McGuire,” through its current pop-culture sensation, “Hannah Montana,” mainly attract girls. Efforts to bring in more boys, through male-led series such as “Even Stevens” or “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” still haven’t succeeded enough to close the gender gap between female and male viewers. Animation, traditionally a draw for boys, has been a struggle for Disney Channel, although its newest series, “Phineas and Ferb,” appears to be building a strong male following. But so far, the network has failed to produce a blockbuster to compete with Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob SquarePants;” or match the guy-centric focus of Cartoon Network, which one ad-buyer described as the “ESPN” of animation.

"You’re fighting the brand perception, the very, very strong brand equity that’s been in the marketplace for many, many years," Kahn said of the Disney Channel. "It would almost require a completely separate effort to reach tween boys, with a completely different name somehow associated with the Disney property, to reach these tween males."

None of this is news to Ross, who, with his executive team, spent more than a year with focus groups pondering the eternal verities: “What do boys want?”

The answer, perhaps not surprisingly, is that boys want it all. "What we heard, loud and clear, is they expect from Disney this broad array," Ross said, with programs running the gamut from animation to action-adventure to comedy. "They expect from Disney the whole thing, including movies." In short, tween boys are looking for more than a show or two wedged in the midst of the musical theater-inspired programs that have come to define the Disney Channel. They want, Disney says, a channel they can call their own.

"They want a place, essentially a headquarters for them where their favorite content exists, that has this broad array of shapes and sizes and tenors and complexities, and treats them with the respect that Disney Channel treats all kids, and the girls are fanatical about," Ross said.

So tiny girls get The Disney Channel, with many shows whose casts are actually more than 50% male. And tiny boys get Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney XD, with shows whose casts are almost 100% male. Yes we can! If we are tiny and white and male!


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