The Disney Movies Anywhere app will be available on Walmart’s VUDU online-video service beginning Tuesday, the biggest news out of Disney’s mobile showcase Friday morning outlining initiatives from its brands. Also coming: stand-alone video apps for its biggest YouTube stars such as PewDiePie, a revamped ESPN.com online presence, and ImagiCademy, a new hybrid service providing learning and entertainment for children.
CEO Bob Iger introduced the event, reminiscing about “good ol’ Steve Jobs,” whom he had called in early 2005, asking if Apple would “do for movies and TV what you’ve done for music” with iTunes and the iPad. The usually secretive Jobs said he wanted to show Iger something, and came to the studio a week later, bearing a brown paper bag.
“He said ‘I’m way ahead of you, fella,'” Iger recounted. And what did Jobs pull out of that brown paper bag? It was a video iPod, a device that was revolutionary in 2005 and, as Iger noted, seems remarkably quaint less than a decade later. He talked about a fast-changing media landscape where smartphones are more powerful and capable than the PCs of 2005, showing streaming video on the go at better-than-HD resolution. Those kinds of changes are forcing big media companies to rapidly adapt to new customer needs and business opportunities, Iger said.
He then introduced the first of a series of executives, mostly on the technical side, from across just about all of Disney’s sprawling org chart (except, notably, for ABC News). Among the most interesting tidbits from the two-hour presentation:
- Disney Movies Anywhere is starting to live up to its name. After launching earlier this year on Apple’s iTunes store, and last week on the Google Play store, the online movie-streaming service will be available through Vudu, Walmart’s online video service that has apps for streaming devices such as Roku, Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One. If you link accounts across the services, a digital copy of a Disney movie you buy on one will be available to watch online through any of them.
- PewDiePie, Shay Carl, Stampy Cat and seven other of Maker Studios’ biggest YouTube creators are getting stand-alone apps showcasing their video offerings on the web and on mobile. PewDiePie, with his YouTube-best 32.2 million subscribers, was an obvious choice. But Maker, acquired by Disney in March, has 55,000 channels in its network, and plans to roll out dozens of the spotlight apps over time with a new app-builder system that will ease the creation process. Ads, subscriptions and other monetization will be wrapped around the apps.
- ImagiCademy, which Andrew Sugerman, EVP for Disney Publishing Worldwide, said is designed to fill “a gap in the mobile marketplace” for learning-oriented services. “While mobile will be a key part of Imagicademy, it is so much more and we believe it will be unique and different from anything else on the market today,” Sugerman said. The company plans to share more details about the service on Dec. 4 at a New York event.
- The Watch ABC app, one of five “Watch” mobile apps for Disney/ABC channels, now has a function that makes it simple for fans of several shows to simultaneously post about the program to Twitter and Facebook, and another to quickly share key video clips with other fans and friends. Currently, the capabilities cover only half a dozen shows, including social-media powerhouses Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder, along with Modern Family, Black-ish and others. Albert Cheng, Disney/ABC’s EVP and chief product officer for digital, said the company is still evaluating the sharing functions, but hopes to expand to additional shows on both Watch ABC and Watch ABC Family, depending on resources.
- ESPN will launch a revamped and unified ESPN.com on April 1, using “responsive design” techniques that redraw the site’s layout to proportionately fit a given device’s screens (Deadline also uses responsive design for its site). The unified ESPN online presence will store a user’s team preferences across all devices for quick access, among other offerings.
- The Parks & Resorts division is seeing huge uptake on an app that lets “guests” schedule rides and book tickets to its various Walt Disney World operations. SVP Online Vivek Sharma said mobile ticketing is “coming very soon.” A somewhat similar app for Disney’s cruise lines includes a chat function allowing a family to communicate with each other simply while scheduling various diversions on the ship.