Following a year-long trial marriage of sorts, the Walt Disney Co. announced its acquisition of Bellevue, Wash.-based Starwave last Thursday. Starwave was fully acquired by Disney and will be subsumed under the Buena Vista Internet Group, parent company of Disney Online, ABCnews Internet Ventures, ESPN Internet Ventures, and ABC.com. ABCnews.com and ESPN SportsZone were joint ventures with Starwave. What had been Starwave's Bellevue headquarters now becomes technology headquarters for BIG. Patrick Naughton, formerly the president of Starwave, is now chief technology officer of BIG, reporting to Jake Winebaum, chairman of BIG.
In April of last year, Disney bought what was believed to be a one-third stake in Starwave, with an option to buy the rest of the company from Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who launched Starwave, within five years. At the time, Disney gained operating control of Starwave through a majority representation on its board.
"We can do everything that we've been doing for so long with less stress and more leverage," Naughton said. "The sales organization can sell across all the sites."
In a statement issued last week, Winebaum said the purchase allows Disney to expand its suite of Internet sites. The sites will also now leverage a common technology platform, and Disney will deliver common navigation and services across all its sites. Advertisers will also be offered network advertising opportunities.
"We have broad content ambitions and will continue to take advantage of those in whatever ways we can," Naughton added. "Our goal is to get the content distributed as much as possible. There's no explicit strategy to do anything different."