Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Disney, Seeking Digital Footing, Overhauls Its Website Yet Again

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Disney, Seeking Digital Footing, Overhauls Its Website Yet Again

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES -- Trying to finally master the Internet the way it has theme parks or animated films, the Walt Disney Co. has redesigned its website, Disney.com, for the third time in five years.

The new site, introduced this month and promoted as "cleaner, simpler, more elegant," is one way Robert A. Iger, Disney's chief executive, hopes to turn around the company's gaming, mobile and Internet division after 15 consecutive quarters of losses -- some $977 million in total.

Mr. Iger is optimistic about new products, which include an ambitious and unannounced gaming initiative code-named Toy Box. He has promised that Disney Interactive will turn a profit sometime next year.

"It's about time," he told analysts in May, sounding a bit fed up himself.

But questions abound. Disney has now taken several stabs at creating a thriving website, and has vacillated on game strategy. Has the entertainment giant finally solved the riddle of new media? Or is it playing a no-win game on the whiplash-fast Web?

Furthermore, why has the deep-pocketed Disney taken this much time to figure it out?

"We've been waiting for years and years and years," said Jessica Reif Cohen, a senior analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "For traditional media companies, this really does seem like a totally different skill set."

Figuring out the Internet is critical for all media companies, but Disney's future in particular depends on a winning strategy. The children it hopes to turn into lifelong consumers of its products are increasingly living online. Disney Channel used to be the company's most important welcome mat. Now executives refer to Disney.com as the "front door."

The interactive division's losses are small for a company that last year recorded $4.8 billion in profit on $40.9 billion in revenue. Ms. Cohen noted that new media is "not a primary driver" of Disney shares, which have climbed 57 percent over the last year, to about $51.90. But at some point those losses threaten to besmirch an otherwise stellar record for Mr. Iger, who has said he will step down as chief executive in 2015.

"I don't think he's going to want any black marks," Ms. …

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