LAS VEGAS – The Walt Disney Co. showcased its investments in cutting-edge advertising technology on Wednesday at the Consumer Electronics Show, with top executives talking up the company’s enhanced ablity to serve marketers across linear and streaming platforms around the world.
“2023 was Disney’s biggest year in our history for investments in ad technology, including the
global expansion of Disney+ with ads,” said Rita Ferro, Disney’s president of global advertising, told the crowd at the Cosmpolitan hotel. “Our tech stack was intentionally built for streaming, to work seamlessly across the global marketplace. It was made for you to buy once and deliver everywhere.”
A procession of executives gave short presentations on innovations and strategic moves made to allow advertisers greater ability to target discrete groups of consumers — capabilities that Madison Avenue has dreamed of for decades.
Joe Earley, Disney’s president of direct-to-consumer streaming, sketched out the scope of Disney’s streaming business, which has seen exponential growth since the dawn of ESPN+ in 2018 and Disney+ in 2019. Earley emphasized that while the core Disney brand is synonymous with kid and family-friendly entertainment, with Hulu it also has plenty of options for adult viewers.
“We have managed to scale at an astonishing rate,” Earley said, citing 225 million subscribers across Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and the Star+ service in India. Disney DTC platforms are active in 150 markets, serving up content in 40 languages. “We are a top three global streaming service in every one of these markets where we operate,” Earley said. “A key marketplace differentiator is our unmatched advertising capabilities.”
Disney is set to launch a fully integrated streaming bundle in the U.S. in March that will make it easier for subscribers to move between Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ platforms. “Since our beta launch began rolling out seamlessly a month ago, engagement with Hulu content in the Disney+ app is beating even our own expectations and continues to grow week-over-week. Consumers are watching more, both in terms of hours and they’re watching a wider variety of programming.”
Disney brass also unveiled expanded ecommerce functions that will be made available under the Gateway Shop platform to give consumers easy access to buy products seen in content on Disney plaforms.
Gateway Shop is “Disney’s first seamless, shoppable TV ad experience,” said Ajay Ahora, Disney’s senior VP of commerce, growth and identity. “It lets the viewer go from interest to action to purchase – without ever leaving the viewing environment. It’s streaming commerce without disruption.”
Disney executives repeatedly emphasized the company’s laser focus on brand building to keep engagement high on platforms ranging from ESPN to Disney+ to Hulu.
Another announcement was plans to expand the biennial D23 event that courts Disney super-fans for sneak peeks, panels and one-on-ones and other special events. The 2024 edition will be held in mid-August in Anaheim and will include for the first time a ceremony to salute key Disney Legends who have made major contributions to the Mouse House. Disney will also test the waters for a fan convention outside of the U.S. by holding a D23 fan event in Sao Paolo, Brazil in November.
“It’s akin to our very own Super Bowl or Comic Con weekend, presenting an unparalleled opportunity for your brands to connect with fans of all ages and families from across the globe,” said Disney chief brand officer Asad Ayaz. Some parts of the D23 event in Anaheim will be available for live streaming for the first time as well.
(Pictured: Disney’s Rita Ferro at Disney’s 2024 Tech & Data Showcase at the Cosmpolitan)