Disney shifts focus to put digital content at the heart of its brand partnerships

Disney is launching its own digital ad network as it looks to “monetise content that hasn’t been monetised in the past”.

Disney is putting a growing focus on monetising its digital content by changing the way it works with brands to enable them to integrate into its content “more comprehensively” than in the past.

The media giant unveiled the Disney Digital Network at Dmexco last week. The aim is to increase the number of digital partnerships it has with brands.

In practice, this means Disney wants more brands to advertise around the digital content it produces, or get involved with original programming by creating bespoke original series. Disney will also be looking at using different tech, such as virtual reality or artificial intelligence, to get a partner’s message across. Previously, Disney has focused more on monetising other mediums, such as new films and TV series.

One example is IBM, which partnered with Disney’s Star Wars franchise to create a digital series that explains the parallels between the science fantasy of Star Wars and the real-world scientific breakthroughs the saga has inspired.

“This is for digital formats only, and we’re enabling ourselves to monetise content that hasn’t been monetised in the past. We have so many different audiences, from families, Disney fans, Star Wars to Marvel, we have so much content so there are lots of partnership opportunities,” Robbie Douek, VP of digital partnerships of Disney EMEA, tells Marketing Week.

Like in the ad tech scene, if you own the pipes and own the content then you’re in a great place.

Robbie Douek, Disney

The ad network comes as part of Disney’s strategy change to start making the most out of its own content and create a more unified platform for brands. Earlier this year, the company revealed it would be pulling all of its content off Netflix to make way for its own streaming service.

READ MORE: Disney prioritises ‘audience centricity’ in commercial overhaul

This intellectual property (IP) is, Douek claims, also what sets the company apart from the rest of the media landscape.

“Like in the ad tech scene, if you own the pipes and own the content then you’re in a great place. That’s why Disney is in a great place, because of our IP. We can build better brand partnership because of it, rather than companies using other people’s IP or renting it. But people, no matter what age, also have a real emotional attachment to Disney – that is our USP,” he says.

Disney acknowledges, however, that it still has some work to do educating its agencies and brand partners about the type of digital work that is available to them. But most of all, it wants to ensure the content it produces for audiences is “absolutely robust”.

“It needs to feel great, and meet the needs of Disney audiences that want to digest it. We have lots of work to do and content to produce, Star Wars is coming out at the end of this year and we operate in 22 countries after all,” he concludes.

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