The endearing adventures, antics and comic actions of Mickey Mouse have been enchanting viewers since 1928. The journey of Disney films from Snow White and Seven Dwarfs in 1937 to Lion King in 2019 has been purely exemplary. It is Disney which used simulated 3-D camera for the first time and it revolutionized animation. In essence, it was at the forefront of technological transformation and that is what has enabled it to retain and enhance viewers decade after decade. Yet, it is the technological challenge of 21st century that the company was struggling to cope up with.
The rise of streaming media and rapidly changing consumer behavior has caught Disney fumbling to innovate. It has experienced loss of subscribers to Netflix, Amazon and such other companies.
To take on competitors and delve into the wave of digital transformation, Disney purchased Maker Studios. It was a multi-channel network which depended on freelance content creators for promotion, monetization, rights, programming, etc. However, it did not have the kind of syndicated content that we see today. Nevertheless, Maker Studio repackaged the legacy digital content of Disney and also created some original content for Disney. That was quite an attractive package. Yet, this endeavor of Disney did not live up to the expectation.
Nevertheless, Disney learnt from its mistake. It learned that not owning the content and not building a relationship with the audience cannot ensure success in this age of digital transformation. In fact, it is the integral relationship of streaming media with its audience that has made these media popular. Moreover, these media houses have their own content unlike Disney.
The endeavor of Disney enhanced views and revenues for the top few content creators, but not for Disney. Content creators too moved to greener pastures when the contract expired. Maker or Disney die not have any relation with the audience. So the audience took Maker only as the infrastructural support.
Disney also miscalculated the preferences and technological affiliations of millennials. YouTube content creators have a fan following and their regular postings help them keep in touch with their fans and also enhance fan base. Fans can also interact with YouTubers through comments in comments section and social media platforms. So content creators can stay connected to their viewers and fans, and it is they who gained all the prominence. Disney or Make simply stayed at the facilitator. Disney had little idea that the fan following of YouTubers can rival the fan following of Hollywood stars. The fan following of YouTube content creators are young, tech savvy, and are large in number. Disney went through the business in its old “Hollywood” style and scored a naught. It missed the direct-to-consumer trend that was reshaping content creation and audience engagement.
However, it soon learnt from its mistakes and mend its ways.
Disney embarked on a $1 billion digital upgrade. The new digital avatar of Disney offers a seamless means to customer to manage their consumer experience. Now, Guests can order for MyMagic+ wristbands before their visit. They can manage reservations, make payments, and access accommodation. It also enables the staff to offer a more customised experience to visitors. This has eliminated multiple reservations, tickets and payments.
The MyMagic+ wristband is at the core of this digital transformation. It utilizes RFID chips to connect with Disney’s infrastructure. User data enables the systems in the park to identify guests, their locations, and specific needs so that they can provide a personalized and more contextual experience.
More about that in some future blog; but the above does give a good insight into how Disney failed at Digital transformation initially, by missing the basics.