Disney admits it has ‘no idea’ who went to see Star Wars as it increases focus on consumer insight

Disney is looking at ways it can gain more consumer insight and reach people more directly as the brand’s CEO Bob Iger admits it has “no idea” of who went to see its Star Wars films at the cinema.

Speaking during a Q&A at the Deutsche Bank 2016 media, internet and telecom conference yesterday (9 March), Iger said the company will be increasing investment in technology to help it reach people more directly as all of its content is “distributed through third parties”.

He said: “When you look at the profile of our businesses outside of our parks, resorts and stores, all our IP is distributed through third parties, and in some cases very effectively, multichannel distributors, big box retailers and movie theatre chains, so there’s nothing wrong with that. But our access to the consumer is very limited.

“We don’t have any idea of who went to see Star Wars in the movies. And I think there are opportunities there that we need to figure out how to take advantage of.”

As a result, the brand is eager to invest in the technology and “the people technologically” that enable Disney to reach people more directly.

How to market streaming

When it comes to streaming television content, many brands still need to catch up technologically and more needs to be done when it comes to marketing the medium. Disney currently offers consumers the opportunity to watch episodes of a variety of its television shows online as well on mobile.

“There is still a lot of work that needs to get done, both in terms of the marketing efforts, meaning letting people know that it exists and then teaching people how to essentially make use of it. [The whole cable ecosystem] is unfortunately so reliant on legacy technology that it needs to be upgraded in terms of user friendliness,” he said.

Iger believes that the popularity of platforms like Netflix is due to them being tailor-made for mobile experiences and easy to navigate.

“Whether you’re searching for something or whether you want to watch or buy something, as soon as you hit a speed bump, technologically or digitally, you go elsewhere. And that’s something that I think the whole media industry needs to be mindful of, how do we get consumers to find our things easier and to use them under [different] circumstances,” he said.

Figures released by Thinkbox today (10 March) back up Iger’s thoughts. Subscription video on demand (SVOD) viewing, which includes services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, has grown in popularity. In 2015, SVOD accounted for 4% of total video, up from 2.3% in 2014.

Lessons learnt from Disney Life

The brand launched its own online subscription service Disney Life in the UK late last year. It includes films, windowed television shows, thousands of episodes, music, books as well as non-educational children’s books and numerous games.

While Iger was reluctant to share any figures or reveal whether the launch has been a success so far, he did share that the company “has learnt a lot” in terms of marketing and technology. He added that the brand is planning a bigger marketing push around the service later this month.

“We’ve learned a lot about the technology. From a platform and a technology perspective, how [consumers] behave on iPhones and iOS devices versus Android devices is one example of that. We’ve learnt a lot about marketing, which we haven’t even [started] in a big way yet. We are doing that at the end of this month,” he said.

Disney has also become more confident about its programming and believes there is a global appeal for its product. It is currently looking at rolling out the service in other countries.

“The games and the books are nice [for consumers], but they’re subscribing to this for movies and television, and that Disney matters. Parents with kids under 12, even those that subscribe to Sky and a multichannel bundle are still interested in buying this as an add-on service for their children,” he explained.

“So what we’ve accomplished, and we’ve really only just begun because we launched in December, is actually significant for us as a company because the opportunity to launch this in other markets is pretty great. We just haven’t made any decisions about which markets and when.”