One year after its rebrand, Disney XD is poised to battle with the big boys for a share of advertising dollars targeted to young men due to a strong 2009 ratings performance and several new programming projects debuting over the next year.
Since its launch in February 2009, the former Toon Disney has experienced double-digit increases in viewership in key young male demos, including a 40% increase in its target ofv boys 6 to 14, according to Disney Channel Worldwide president of entertainment Gary Marsh.
Disney XD has successfully integrated new original series such as Aaron Stone, Zeek and Luther, I'm In the Band, and Kick Buttowski: Suburban Daredevil with off-Disney Channel shows such as Suite Life on Deck and animated series Phineas and Ferb.
Marsh said the network hasn't forsaken female viewers: 40% percent of the network's audience consists of young girls. "The goal was to target boys but never exclude girls, which gives advertisers a much bigger opportunity," he said.
Marsh would not predict how well Disney XD would perform in the kids' upfront market, but believes the network's ratings growth should help sell the network's future prospects to advertisers.
The network will be fighting for boys-targeted ad dollars in a very crowded marketplace that includes Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and The Hub, the new joint venture between Discovery Communications and toy maker Hasbro, to launch this fall. Nickelodeon will present its slate of new programming this week during its upfront in New York.
Overall, the 2009 kids' upfront was pegged at $850 million, according to industry estimates, and few see that-or the total ad spend figure-increasing, according to Multichannel News sister publication Broadcasting & Cable.
Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming for Katz Media Group, expects the networks to divvy up a growing boys-targeted advertising market that will draw from such categories as soft drinks, film studios, fast-food companies, video-game developers, electronics and cellphone makers.
New to Disney XD this fall will be Pair of Kings, which stars Mitchell Musso (Hannah Montana) and Doc Shaw (Suite Life on Deck) as fraternal twins who find out they are heirs to the throne of a distant land.
The network will also benefit from Disney's September 2009 acquisition of Marvel Comics, with a new animated series set for fall. The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes is based on the team of Marvel superhero characters Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk, Giant Man and Wasp, said Marsh. In summer 2011, Disney XD will air an animated movie based on Phineas and Ferb.
And Disney Channel in April will premiere new series, Good Luck Charlie, which revolves around the exploits of three siblings whose lives are turned around by the birth of their baby sister.
The network will also ramp up its original movie production in 2010 with development with the debut of Den Brother, Avalon High and a sequel to its successful 2008 movie Camp Rock movie with Demi Lovato (Sonny With a Chance) and the Jonas Brothers reprising their roles from the 2008 telefilm.
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