Disney XD Goes Where The Boys Are

2/13/2009 12:05 PM Eastern

Disney is hoping to play competitively in the tween boys demo playground with the Feb. 13 launch of Disney XD.

The ad-supported network, which takes over for Toon Disney with its own mix of multiplatform live-action and animated content, targets boys 6-14, a demographic currently dominated by Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.

“We looked at the landscape and believed that there was a programming void for a network that really looked at boys more holistically and didn't assume that their entertainment preferences were limited by goofy cartoons and video games,” said Disney Channel Worldwide president of entertainment Gary Marsh.

That landscape includes Cartoon and Nick, which both drew a greater share of viewers in the demo in 2008 than the Toon Disney, which targeted a younger kids 2-11 demo, according to Nielsen Media research.

Cyma Zarghami, president of the Nickelodeon/MTVN Kids and Family Group, said the tween boys demo is already inundated with a number of multimedia choices. Nickelodeon and sister network Nicktoons have established themselves with the demo through new animated shows such as Wolverine and The X-Men and established brands such as Spongebob Square Pants, as well as with online gaming sites like

“If you look at the total landscape for kids today, including Web sites, mini-clips and the kind of movies that are coming out of the studios that are big action films that clearly target boys, I think that there is so much media available to be consumed by boys, I'm not sure that they have an appetite for much more,” she said. “But competition is always healthy.”

Cartoon Network chief content officer Rob Sorcher said the network has found success targeting the elusive demo through animated dramas and comedies such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Total Drama Island. “Our approach to building leadership among boys 6-14 is very different,” Sorcher said. “Our slate of action dramas and comedies generally feature a form of wish fulfillment that our audience has found to be very relatable and relevant to them.”

Marsh fully expects the revamped Disney XD to improve on Toon Disney's tween boys viewership, but added that ratings will only be a part of how the network's success is judged.

“At the end of the day, we're not just going for share of audience, but share of mind,” Marsh said. “This is about creating a brand new brand over time and creating long-term affinity with that brand, and not just on television.”

Indeed, the network will launch the new Web site Feb. 13 featuring full episodes, exclusive show premieres and short-form video. The site will also feature a gaming portal offering 50 and 60 video games that will be continuously updated, said Lauren DeVillier, vice president of digital media for Disney/ABC Cable Networks Group.

Disney hopes to have the same success in targeting tween boys as the Disney Channel has in appealing to tween girls with such hits as Hannah Montana, Wizards of Waverly Place and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Unlike relationship-driven storylines of Disney Channel's hit shows, Marsh said Disney XD will feature more action- and comedy-driven shows.

The network's first original show, Aaron Stone exemplifies the network's programming direction, Marsh said. The show features a tween boy video game wiz who is tapped to play his best game, Hero Rising, in the real world. Other original shows such as Kid Knievel, an animated comedy series about a 12-year-old boy who aspires to become the world's greatest daredevil and Zeke & Luther, a comedy series about two friends who set their sights on becoming world-famous skateboarders will help set the tone for the network.

Disney XD will also borrow a few hits from its sister Disney Channel, including popular animated series Phineas & Ferb. Disney XD will debut new episodes of the series, beginning Feb. 16.

While Disney XD targets boys, Marsh said the network will be inclusive and should draw its fair share of girls and adult viewers.

Life Before Disney XD
Toon Disney has trailed behind competitors such as Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network when it comes to boys 6-14.
Rank/Network Males 6-14
SOURCE: Disney-ABC Television Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research total-day data, for 12/31/2007 to 12/28/2008
1. Nickelodeon454,000
2. Cartoon Network346,000
3. Disney Channel262,000
4. Nick at Nite219,000
5. Adult Swim156,000
6. Toon Disney55,000
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