The Walt Disney Company has bought children’s social networking site Club Penguin as it attempts to ramp up its digital presence and utilise the internet as a communications and marketing tool. The US-based site will be rebranded Disney Club Penguin and rolled out internationally.
Disney also intends to exploit the brand across video games, consumer products and possible presence in its theme parks. Chief executive Bob Iger says: “Our vision has been to create online destinations where kids around the world can interact with each other and play games alongside their favourite Disney characters.”
Club Penguin will sit as part of the Disney Internet Group. Disney is paying $350m (£172m) with the promise of another $350m to 2009 depending on earnings. The ad-free site is geared towards children aged six to 14 years and allows users to the adopt penguin avatars, talk to each other, play games and furnish igloos.
It earns revenue through paid subscriptions. It has 700,000 paid members and a further 12 million activated users have access to a more limited site. Sony is also believed to have considering buying the site.
Disney will promote the network through its Disney Channel, Radio Disney and Disney.com.
Earlier this year the company unveiled its revamped Disney.com online offering to capitalise on the interest in social networking. The site was designed as a one-stop shop for consumers seeking to buy products online following concerns over the usability of its previous site.
It has also launched Disney Fairies, where children can create fairy avatars. The site will relaunch next year based around the Tinker Bell character.