Disney Channel Looks to Draw Tween Viewers with 'Raven's Home,' 'Bunk'd' Crossover Special

Disney Channel will resurrect it’s successful series crossover programming stunt on  July 24 by bringing together two of its biggest shows, Raven’s Home and Bunk’d, for a primetime special.

Disney vice president of current series Kory Lunsford, who has worked on the previous 10 network series crossover specials dating back to 2007 with the That’s So Suite Life of Hanna Montana event, talks to Multichannel News about the popularity of the specials as well as why the pairing of these two shows will resonate with the network’s core tween audience. An edited version of the interview appears below. 

What’s been behind the previous success of Disney’s crossover series strategy?

I’ve actually worked on every single one of the crossover episodes going back to That’s So Suite  Life of Hannah Montana. They are fun, and this one fell in place. There was a clamoring among our showrunners and writers to want to do one and we wanted to make a big summer splash for the channel, and I think we accomplished that.

Why did Raven’s Home and Bunk’d work best in a crossover special?

You want to make sure you’re authentic in creating these shows. When we had That’s So Suite Life of Hannah Montana you had the [Suite Life of Zack & Cody] hotel serve as the gathering point. We thought, ‘what's a more fun and aspirational setting than summer camp?’ These two shows resonate the most with our audience so that was a great starting off point. They also have great, diverse ensemble casts. We were able to work with each camp -- no pun intended - to mix and match characters from each show and were able to create multiple, rich storylines.

Raven About Bunk’d is premiering in a different television environment than the first  Disney series crossover event in that fewer young viewers are now watching linear television. Do you feel this special will attract more eyeballs to the linear Disney Channel service?

Back in the day if we made it, everyone tuned in. What we’ve learned over the years as consumer viewing patterns have shifted is that if you make great content, viewers will find it. We’re focused on all platforms that offer our content -- whether it’s Disney Now or Disney Plus -- so it's all about making content that appeals to our viewers. We know word of mouth is very powerful with our audience these days, so we believe in our content and know that this story will be aspirational and will resonate with our audience.

Will you look to do future crossover specials featuring other Disney Channel shows?

Absolutely, and it’s something that we’ve already discussed. They are a bit challenging -- it takes two separate production entities merging together and working together when they normally don’t -- but they’re usually always successful. 

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.