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Disney Launches Digital Network, Collection of Over 300 Accounts

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Reaching out to generation Z and millennial viewers—and the advertisers who chase them—Disney announced the launch of the Disney Digital Network during its 2017 newfront presentation today.

Rather than having one central destination, the network is an aggregate of over 300 social media channels under one mouse-eared umbrella. The network's videos are created by a team of in-house "digitologists" (a word Disney coined) who produce over 6,000 pieces of micro-content each month.

A series of Disney-inspired shows provide the tent poles in this carnival, with  titles including Oh My Disney (a daily look at what's trending online with a Disney spin), Disney Family (DIY crafts, activities, and recipes for family fun), and Babble (where Disney-loving parents have their say). The network also includes shows devoted to gaming, style, and Star Wars, as well as a relaunch of The Mickey Mouse Club (now Club Mickey Mouse and available exclusively on Facebook).

Creating a show is just the start for the Disney Digital Network. According to Michael Hundgen, director of content at The Walt Disney Company, Disney spins over 30 pieces of micro-content from each episode, with that short-form video going out through a variety of channels.

The network also includes content from a few select teen- and tween-oriented Maker stars (no longer Maker Studios, and no longer central to Disney's online video strategy). According to Andrew Sugerman, executive vice president of publishing and digital media, Disney recently pared down its Maker partners in the interest of providing brand safety. In the wake of YouTube's well-publicized brand safety issues, assuring brands that content is both premium and safe is a priority for all newfront presenters this year.

Defy Media kicked off its afternoon newfront by taking shots at online studios that dropped out of this year's season (such as AOL and BuzzFeed) and the TV networks whose upfronts will follow. Newfronts are getting bigger, said Defy CEO Matt Diamond, but that isn't true for all presenters—or not presenters. He was followed by Defy president Keith Richman who said those under 34 don't watch traditional TV because it's not made for them. "It doesn't speak their language. They don't relate to it," he said, observing that that heads of most TV networks are in their 60s, 70s, or 80s. "This is not the most youthful and diverse group," he said.

Using the expression "newfront Darwinism" (which he coined in a Wall Street Journal article), Richman suggested that many can't cut it in the online video space. "Companies are dropping out of the newfronts faster than Fox news advertisers," he joked. He also mocked the fact that many shows are announced at newfronts but never made, saying, "If we talk about it, we're making it."

Defy emphasized three of its best-known brands—Smosh, Clevver, and Screen Junkies—with stars from each property announcing a slate of new and returning shows. The company announced 30 shows at its 2016 newfront and actually made 35, presenters pointed out, and is strong with young adult viewers. 

Disney will relaunch the Mickey Mouse Club as Club Mickey Mouse, and only on Facebook.

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