With its creative engines whirring, The Walt Disney Company is scouting for more country-specific deals, including partnerships and acquisitions, to embed its global franchises and IP deeper within local markets.
Asia, home to some of the world’s fastest growing and dynamic entertainment ecosystems, is a particular priority.
“Nothing is off the table,” the company’s chief strategy officer and main dealmaker, Kevin Mayer, declared at this year’s APOS conference.
“We are definitely cognizant of the different models in different countries. Unlike the US, free-to-air in Indonesia for instance is a very big and robust growth business, so that’s interesting to us,” Mayer added.
“We need to get our brands and characters in front of as many people as possible, so we are always going to be interested in platforms that allow us to do that.”
A four-year-old tie-up with Japanese mobile operator Docomo, which delivers customized handsets, games and short-form video to around 750,000 active subscribers, showcases the merits of localization tailored to individual countries.
“In Japan, we have businesses that are pretty unique. We want to take that philosophy and bring it to all the other countries in Asia,” Mayer said.
“In Asia specifically, it is going to be incumbent upon us to create partnerships and to work with other companies, and to look at acquisitions as well, to try to grow, because of the unique and local preferences in this part of the world.”
Disney started focusing on fewer but bigger brands within its portfolio – supported by advances in technology and global reach to make, distribute and monetize them – when current CEO Bob Iger took the top job in 2005.
Successive swoops on Pixar, Marvel Entertainment and Lucasfilm, overseen by Mayer, have been key to this strategy, helping reboot Disney’s hit-making credentials while lifting consumer revenue across multiple categories, from merchandizing to TV to online games.
The acquired studios remain relatively autonomous, a working template formed in 2006 during the acquisition of Pixar, which has since become Disney’s main animation hub.
“We integrate them from a business model perspective and we have the synergies across multiple platforms," Mayer explained.
"But from a creative perspective we acknowledge that each one is different, each one understands their brand and their connection to consumers in a unique way.”
As local distribution and retail landscapes evolve, more opportunities to connect with consumers, and better understand them, are opening up worldwide.
Disney has also picked up Maker Studios, one of the world’s largest online video aggregators or multichannel networks (MCNs), that serves as both a marketing platform and short-form content engine, equipped with two-way interactivity.
“We’re not going to place a bet solely on one mode of getting to consumers,” Mayer said.
“One thing that we see today is that content finds its way through a multitude of pathways to consumers. We need to be respectful of that, and seed all of those different pathways.”
Those also include direct-to-consumer businesses such as multimedia offering DisneyLife, as well as branded on-demand services, such as Disney On Demand, provided by third-party distribution platforms.
These initiatives, designed to complement Disney’s pay-TV offerings, could become more common as operators add more broadband products to their linear services.
“Just because something is on-demand, it doesn’t mean you can’t sell in a bundle,” Mayer remarked. “I think you will be seeing that evolution all across the world.”