Disney’s recent reorganization in Southeast Asia – consolidating its TV, mobile and online business – heralds an accelerated push to tap emerging digital lifestyles in the region, in pursuit of the next wave of growth.
The gameplan calls for more telco and ecommerce alliances to add on to existing free-to-air and pay-TV partnerships, as well as a broader suite of localized products and content for mobile and social consumption, supported by a close watch on evolving digital trends.
“Telcos are really important, social media platforms are really important and some of the existing media platforms are really important, because they already have a relationship with the consumer,” explains Robert Gilby, The Walt Disney Company’s MD for Southeast Asia.
“A lot of our growth is going to come from helping build more compelling consumer experiences across those platforms.”
Disney has already planted its flag in the ground, via last year’s wide-ranging marketing and distribution deal with Philippine telco Globe.
Gilby and his team are working on similar tie-ups elsewhere, sometimes alone and sometimes with an existing partner, as they look to raise the profile of Disney’s stories and characters among new audiences and in new environments.
Levers of growth
Gilby sees social and mobile as key levers of growth, for existing businesses as well as new revenue streams. On-ground execution will be key.
Future partnerships also hinge on a mutual exchange of data and consumer understanding, to inform marketing and product development, as well as creative and technological prowess.
Gilby wants to bolster Disney’s own capabilities across all of these areas, at both a regional and a market level, as a result.
Disney’s new streamlined media arm, meanwhile, has been designed to speed up delivery of new products and content in Southeast Asia, as well as the business models to support them.
“This is an area that moves so fast,” Gilby tells Media Business Asia.
“You need to gain momentum, you need to learn really fast, and get better at the product and better at the partnerships,” he adds. “That’s going to be the platform to grow the business.”
Amit Malhotra, former GM for Disney’s Studio’s business in the region, now leads the integrated media arm, incorporating channels and program sales as well as games, apps and Maker Studios, Disney’s specialist MCN.
This simplified structure leaves Disney with three major business units: media networks, under Malhotra; consumer products, led by Hiroki Horino; and studio entertainment, now led by Tom Batchelor.
Gilby wants to replicate the same blueprint locally, charging Malhotra, Horino and Batchelor with building up local talent and resources to drive their respective businesses in-market.
Wider access to mobile broadband, coupled with rising spending power, opens up new audiences and new channels for distribution and engagement, shaped by local culture as well as technology.
Local teams are better placed to interpret the changes taking place, and identify suitable deals.
“Singapore remains our regional headquarters for Southeast Asia, our center of expertize for product development and many of these things, but we need to get better at content production in our localization in-market, we need to get better at local marketing using these social and platforms in country,” Gilby says.
“Absolutely we will be building more in territory. We’ve just started on that process.”
As part of this, Gilby has hired The Walt Disney Company heads for the Philippines and Thailand, in the process of taking up their new roles, with Indonesia to follow.
These are big growth economies, where OTT is challenging conventional pay-TV platforms as an entertainment medium for an expanding consumer class.
“Indonesia is already our biggest territory in Southeast Asia, but it’s got huge potential,” Gilby says.
“We’ve just started our journey in Vietnam, I also see huge potential in Vietnam. These are the two where I think we can increase significantly in a short space of time,” he adds.
“We’re doing incredibly well in the Philippines and Thailand, but so much more upside again. These are big countries with an emerging middle class.”