Disney Wraps Major Upfront Sales

Kids' cable network group sees 6 percent CPM bump

It's a wrap at the Disney kids' cable group—Disney XD, Disney Channel, and Disney Jr. The networks saw a bump of 25 percent in total dollars over last year, likely because of new network Disney Jr., and because of improbable ratings juggernaut Doc McStuffins. Rarely do TV series premieres clock 1.08 million demo viewers at 9 a.m.—rarer still when the demo is kids ages 2-5.

A source puts the overall CPM rise at an average of 6 percent—above the industry average, though it's worth noting that the flagship channel and Disney Jr. work on an ad-light sponsorship model, as opposed to the ad-supported Disney XD, which competes with more traditional kids' cablers like Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon.

Disney Channel is experimenting with IP mash-ups this summer—its popular Phineas and Ferb property is going to cross over with the recently acquired Marvel Comics superheroes, a move that has sparked both enthusiasm among kids and parents who dig the long-running show and ire among hardcore comics fans (guess which group advertisers care about?). It will also help cross-promote Disney's own Phineas-phree Marvel shows on Disney XD, which is trying to gain share against Cartoon and Nick.

The boy-targeted Disney XD likely has a ways to go before it can be said to be truly competitive in the race for GRPs. Per Nielsen, Disney XD in the second quarter of 2013 averaged 172,000 kids 2-11—a drop in the bucket when compared to leading lights Nick (975,000) and Cartoon Network (492,000). (Non-ad-supported Disney Channel delivered 920,000 kids 2-11 in Q2.)

The discrepancy in ratings is reflected in the way the ad dollars are allocated. According to SNL Kagan estimates, Disney XD last year generated $124.8 million in ad sales revenue, putting it well behind Nickelodeon/Nick Jr. ($979 million) and Cartoon Net ($470.3 million).

Categories that were up for Disney's kids unit include video games and the market's newest growth sector: tablet computers for children. CPG overall was up slightly but food was off (at least in the upfront) because of the parent company's new guidelines, which packaged food manufacturers were required to meet by the end of the last calendar year.

The Mouse House is also benefiting from in-house advertising on the games front. Sibling division division Disney Interactive Studios is prepping a title designed to compete with Activision's Skylanders, and yet Disney XD has managed to secure advertising from the rival game developer. This runs counter to the prevailing wisdom that keeps competitors from buying time on each others' platforms; for example, Hasbro went years without seeing a dollar from Mattel for ad space on its co-owned kids channel, The Hub. 

Video games are likely to be up overall in the kids' market—Nintendo is hitting its stride with title releases for the Wii U and both Sony and Microsoft have new consoles set for Christmas.

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