Disney prepares for a marketing evolution

Though hardly suffering the fate of so many dotcoms, Disney and ABC have had a major shakeup in the TV/Internet marketplace. Closing Go.com gave Disney an $800 million hit in the fiscal second quarter. Shares of the Disney Internet Group will convert back into Disney common stock as of March 20. And, to Steve Wadsworth, president, Walt Disney Internet Group, putting the portal concept behind means better things ahead.

"Now that we're fairly focused on our core branded sites-ESPN, ABC, ABC News, Disney-we're seeing strong market reaction to the fact that we have off-line sister companies of the same brand that have significant reach and presence in the marketplace," he says. "These strong, well-known brands have existing relations with the media marketers through our sister divisions. Our Internet components in those areas are doing quite well, showing good revenue growth. Our enhanced-TV products are doing particularly well."

Dick Glover, executive vice president, Walt Disney Internet Group, says that the company will stay the course he has charted with ABC and ESPN Web properties. "There is no change in our attitude, in our perspective. We are always looking to create compelling consumer experiences as efficiently as we can."

With operations pared to leanness, the greatest growth ahead will come from tapping the Internet's ability to deliver market intelligence. "The big thing that needs to happen is maximizing the opportunity from a customer-relationship-management perspective," says Wadsworth. This can transform advertising from being intrusive to inviting. "How do we deliver advertising so targeted that the consumer doesn't see it as advertising, but as a benefit?," he asks. "If the consumer sees ads that way, it's a home run. The medium has that potential but hasn't achieved it yet. This will come as a slow evolution, not as a watershed event."