Advertisers and cable affiliates, who for years have longed
to sell advertising on the commercial-free Disney Channel, will soon have an attractive
alternative in its fast-growing all-animation spinoff, Toon Disney.
A Walt Disney Co. spokeswoman said last week that
executives at Disney Kids Network -- formed last month as a one-stop shop for advertisers
that want to buy kids' inventory on the ABC Television Network, Toon Disney and the
company's radio, print and online properties -- refused to divulge the network's
national and local avail breakdown.
They've been mum with operators as well. Larry
Fischer, president of Time Warner CityCable -- the ad-sales arm of Time Warner Cable of
New York City -- said "we haven't heard from them" about being added to
that system since Disney/ABC Cable Networks president Anne Sweeney announced it would sell
commercials in February. Thus, he said, he did not yet know the local avails count.
In the past, Fischer has been among those sales executives
that have expressed interest in seeing Toon Disney switch to an ad supported model, though
only as a widely penetrated basic network. The channel remains a premium service on his
AT&T Media Services vice president of sales development
Rick Steele and Cable One Inc. vice president of ad sales Ron Pancratz also said they have
not yet been contacted.
Although "kids is a tough market," Pancratz said
he still would like to formulate a kids' sales initiative around that emerging
network. "That needs to go through [our] programming [department] first," he
Adlink vice president of marketing and communications Vicki
Lins said Disney has not approached the Los Angeles interconnect about adding Toon Disney
to its insertable-networks roster. Once that happens, she said: "We would take a
serious look. There's a lot of brand value there."
Since last fall, Toon Disney has aired such programs as Sonic
the Hedgehog and The New Archies. But the majority of its product -- series
such as Duck Tales, Gargoyles and Winnie the Pooh, as well as
movie-based spinoffs like Aladdin, Little Mermaid and 101 Dalmatians
-- is Disney-owned. Toon Disney had 15 million subscribers as of last month.
Sweeney, who forecast that Toon Disney would top 20 million
subscribers during the final quarter, said in a prepared statement, "As we hit
critical mass we know that Toon Disney will be a revenue-generating proposition for
both our affiliates and advertisers."
The fast-growing Toon Disney launched in spring 1998 with 5
million subscribers and doubled its count by the end of that year.
In 1994-95, Disney Channel executives studied the
feasibility of offering limited, Public Broadcasting System-style sponsorships, but later
In fall 1994 it had targeted those advertisers already
affiliated with its theme parks, such as Eastman Kodak Co., Coca-Cola Co. and General
Motors Corp. The network in 1995 signed Kodak to sponsor its Magical World ofDisney
anthology series with "presented by Kodak" billboards, and later added Target
Stores as "presenter" of a primetime preview special tied into the animated film
Hunchback of Notre Dame.