Over chicken and potatoes at New York's Edison Ballroom on Thursday afternoon, media folks heard a presentation by an entertainment giant in a field that doesn't have much room left for giants: Radio Disney.
The 31-station network (all O&O's) has quietly staked out a place in kids' brainpans that has gone more or less unoccupied for the last few years. Music has always been a part of childhood, and the tween audience Disney super-serves on networks like ABC Family has adopted the elderly format in a high-tech way. Three million app downloads and 850,000 Facebook followers (which, theoretically, only represents over-13s) suggest that radio's not quite dead yet—at least not for kids.
Disney Media's evp of media sales and marketing, Rita Ferro, said that the network's aggressive digital strategy helps keep it in the front of kids' minds, and that the programming tries to keep one foot in kids' programming and one foot in the adult world. "We want it to be a safe place," she said. Safe, but not boring: Mom has to be able to resist switching to NPR for the co-listening strategy to work.
The network's most popular program is multiplatform musical talent competition N.B.T. (Next Big Thing), and Geico and Bratz toymaker MGA are joining the show as sponsors. Invisalign Teen is returning this season and will sponsor the program's concert tour in 10 different markets.
Maggie Sisco, director of audio investment and activation at MediaVest, said that the network focuses on drive times (6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.), and that Disney is strict about its product guidlines—there's a caffeinated beverage the network nixed, though Sisco liked the consumable for the parent half of the demo.
Disney goes the extra mile with its integrations, which keeps clients happy. Like talk radio, DJs pump products on the air, giving the clients who make the cut that extra credibility. "There's such an emotional connection between the advertiser and the listener," Sisco said.