Disney Channel Looks To Hook 'Teen Beach Movie' Viewers Beyond Premiere

Updated: July 20, 9:30 p.m. (ET)

Disney Channel will look to ride the wave for its original telepic Teen Beach Movie on multiple platforms long after its July 19 debut on the kids-targeted network.

The original movie’s premiere averaged 8.4 million viewers to rank as TV’s top telecast on Friday and the No. 1 telefilm in 2013 to date, according to Nielsen data. Among key youth demos, Teen Beach Movie also stands as cable’s leading telecast of the year among kids 2 to 11 (4.6 million/11.6 rating), 6 to 11 (3.9 million/16.5 rating) and tweens 9 to 14 (3.4 million/14.3 rating)

Teen Beach Movie stars Ross Lynch (Disney's Austin & Ally) and Maia Mitchell (ABC Family's The Fosters) as friends who get transported into a 60’s-themed beach blanket film.

Disney Channel is featuring several interactive and online elements tied into network's encore movie airings that it hopes will keep its core kids 9-to-14 viewers engaged over the next week, according to Paul DeBenedittis, senior vice president of Programming Strategy for Disney Channels Worldwide.

“It really goes to the level of engagement, and we’re always conscious of making sure that content is where they want it and we’re engaging them wherever they are,” he said.

The network’s multi-platform movie push actually began on July 15, when Disney made Teen Beach Movie available to authenticated subscribers of the network’s Watch Disney Channel TV Everywhere service, as well as subscribers to the network's Disney On Demand service.

The five-day preview on the authenticated Watch Disney Channel service resulted in over 550,000 views, driving the year-old service, which is available to subscribers of Comcast, Cablevision, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Midcontinent Communications, AT&T U-verse and Verizon FiOS, among other MPVDs, according to network officials.

Friday morning the network began selling an enhanced DVD version of the telepic with additional music and dance numbers in Wal-Mart stores across the country. DeBenedittis said “time will tell” what the early and varied exposure will do for the film's performance.

“We’ve seen historical highs ratings this year, but we’ve also had record number of video views on all platforms,” he said. “As long as [viewers] are engaging with us we’re doing the right thing. Not only do kids love what we’re offering on the linear platform, but they love that they can engage with us wherever they are.”

During an encore airing of the movie Saturday morning, there was a live chat with the Teen Beach Movie cast, as well as online, DeBenedittis said. Sunday night, the network was scheduled to present the “sing-a-long” version of the movie with lyrics to each of the movie’s nine songs available both onscreen and online.

On July 27, DeBenedittis said Disney will air yet another Teen Beach Movie encore that will feature interstitials within the telecast that teach viewers dance steps to the movie’s musical numbers. Three days later the network will release the Teen Beach Moive DVD to retailers nationwide.

DeBenedittis said the network’s multi-platform rollout of Teen Beach Movie will hopefully provide viewers with a more fulfilling experience with the film beyond its network premiere.

“When the numbers come in, we’ll be able to cume the ratings, online usage, as well as all other viewer engagement with Teen Beach Movie to understand whether or not we’ve done the right thing for our business, and so far it’s moving in the right direction,” DeBenedittis said.   

Indeed, Teen Beach Movie’s bow was Disney Channel’s best original movie debut among total viewers in over four years and in nearly six among kids 2 to 11, 6 to 11 and tweens. It now stands as the network’s third-best original movie ever among kids 2 to 11 and  6 to 11, behind only High School Musical 2 and Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, and fifth with total viewers.

The telefilm also served as a strong lead-in for a preview of new series Liv & Maddie, which averaged 5.8 million viewers, 3.2 million kids 2 to 11, 2.7 million kids 6 to 11 and 2.4 million tweens, to become Disney Channel’s No. 2 series debut ever among kids 6 to 11 and most-watched since Shake It Up started on Nov. 7, 2010. Liv & Maddie will make its 8 p.m. timeslot premiere on Sunday, Sept. 15.

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.