January 8, 2007

Disney’s Iger Trying To Thread the Needle [2:25 pm]

Disney to unveil website revamp - pdf

“We’ve seen a lot of announcements out of Disney with respect to the Net. Now the expectations are higher,” UBS analyst Aryeh Bourkoff said. “This year, the focus has to be on execution.”

Since assuming the top Disney job from Michael Eisner 15 months ago, Iger has won praise for dropping Disney’s previous antagonism toward Web innovations and striking such pioneering deals as being the first one to sell prime-time television shows and movies over Apple Computer Inc.’s iTunes store.

But for all of Iger’s proclamations about finding new ways to reach consumers over the Internet, Disney’s own website has changed little, and the zealous policing of its creations has limited the Web environments that children can create using its characters.

[...] More than any other big media company, family-oriented Disney must worry about navigating between the strict controls that appeal to parents and the increasing expectations of freedom held by their children.

[...] The new Disney.com will present itself differently to various age groups, though all will get expanded video, games and other interaction. As on MySpace, visitors will be able to create their own websites, communicate with each other and mash together and share music and videos — as long as they’re Disney music and videos.

Parents will have to use their credit cards to register their children as regular site visitors and will get detailed options for limiting what their kids can do and how they can do it.

Current and former Disney Web executives said the balancing act would be a tricky one to pull off, especially on the older end of the target audience.

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Interview with Google’s David Eun [2:11 pm]

Google and content: Google an ally, not a threat, media exec says - pdf

Google, as they see it, is a “frenemy” — an enemy who acts like a friend, or part friend, part enemy. Martin Sorrell, chairman and chief executive of advertising giant WPP Group, recently used the term. He is among the media executives who can’t decide whether Google is trying to help their business or kill it.

That’s where David Eun comes in. As vice president of content partnerships, the former NBC and Time Warner Inc. executive is Google’s ambassador to the television, movie, publishing and local-media industries.

[...] Q: One of your jobs is to be the guy who says, “We’re not the enemy” to media companies. What do you think when you hear people like Martin Sorrell call you a “frenemy”?

A: At the end of the day, I just point to actual data. [In the third quarter], we paid $780 million out to partners in our AdSense program. Clearly, we do best when our partners do well. Our whole business model is structured around partnering. As we think about our mission of connecting users with information — beyond Web pages, into what’s printed on newspapers, magazines or a book, or what’s on video — we think about it in a partner-centric way.

When people say we’re to be feared, I never quite know what to make of that. You can always opt out: We never force you to work with us. We typically don’t do exclusive deals, so you’re never stuck working with us. And it’s public that in most cases we still give the majority of every dollar we create from a partnership to the partners, so you still get the lion’s share of the money. What about that sounds so unfriendly?

You have a company that’s 8 years old, that’s growing very quickly, that’s created a new business approach. And meanwhile, you know, there are challenges to your current business. So there’s a lot of questions, sometimes a lot of anxiety. Sometimes I think that it’s displaced on us.

We represent the new way of doing things — the unknown. A lot of that is placed on us. We must have an agenda, we must be aspiring to be a media company, when in fact we have no such aspirations. We kind of like the way our business runs as it is. If anything, we have an incentive to make sure our media companies are as successful as possible so they continue to make great content because we don’t do that, we don’t know how to do it.

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