Buena Vista integrates Net sales, e-commerce

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Buena Vista Internet Group is forming new ad sales and electronic commerce strategies as it integrates recently acquired Web site producer Starwave Corp. into its operations.

In late April, Walt Disney Co. purchased the remaining interest in Starwave, a Seattle-based Internet technology company in which it invested last year. At that time, Disney created two joint ventures to produce ABCnews.com and ESPN SportsZone.


Now, Starwave, ABCnews.com and ESPN SportsZone have become part of Buena Vista Internet Group, which will handle all of Disney's Internet initiatives.

The restructuring brings changes not only in the way ads and e-commerce are managed under the Disney umbrella, but also for executives involved in the ventures.

For example, Rich LeFurgy, senior VP-advertising for ESPN Internet Ventures/ABC News, is being made BVIG's head of spon- sorship. Chuck Davis, who has been senior VP-marketing for Disney Online, will oversee e-commerce for all of the unit's properties.

Those two shifts reflect a guiding principle behind many of the changes in staffing, expected to be announced in detail this week. Executives are being given singular responsibilities.

For example, Steve Kalin, formerly VP-marketing and business development at ESPN Internet Ventures, will focus on business development.


The principle extends to the sales force.

Each property--whether it be ESPN SportsZone, ABCNews.com, Disney.com or others--now gets its own sales reps, although advertisers could go through Mr. LeFurgy to buy multiple sites.

There will also be salespeople assigned to ad categories. Each site could get an automotive sales rep, based in ESPN's Detroit office.

"So now that we control all the sites and have one sales force that works in a coordinated fashion," said Jake Winebaum, BVIG's chairman, "advertisers can buy the whole network or individual sites or a demographic, which would be a package of sites. They can get really specific or get really broad."

ESPN Internet Group also produces Web sites for the National Football League, National Basketball Association, the Women's National Basketball Association and Nascar. BVIG's ability to include those sites in ad packages is limited since the leagues, as part of the joint ventures, can sell inventory to their sponsors.

Mr. Davis will be charged with mapping the e-commerce vision for all of the unit's properties. BVIG may create an online mall where consumers are able to shop for products offered by each Disney site.

More immediately, BVIG will make it possible for consumers who open an account with, say, ESPN SportsZone, to shop at the retail section of other Disney sites without opening a new account with each one.


With the acquisition of Starwave, which BVIG completed by exercising an option valued at $210 million, Mr. Winebaum has all the assets to realize BVIG's purpose "to be the group within the Walt Disney Co. where Internet strategies get executed."

BVIG was founded in September 1997 after much internal debate at Disney about whether to let each division handle its own Internet activity or centralize it under one unit. Mr. Winebaum, formerly president of Disney Online, championed the latter concept and won the approval of Disney Chairman-CEO Michael Eisner.

The way BVIG interfaces with other Disney divisions varies, from recycling ABCNews.com content to executing Disney content.

Copyright June 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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