TV Upfront

Disney Channel to Host Upfront at Disney World, Lucasfilm

Skips Traditional Upfront for More Immersive Experience

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Tinker Bell's Magical Nook at Disney World
Tinker Bell's Magical Nook at Disney World

Disney Channel is foregoing the shrimp cocktail and musical talent at this year's upfront in favor of whisking advertisers and media buyers to Disney World and inside Lucasfilm.

Instead of a road show or traditional upfront party, Disney Channel is looking to provide a more immersive experience for its key clients, said Rita Ferro, exec VP-Disney Media Sales and Marketing.

The network will host its West Coast clients at Lucasfilm offices the first week in March and see its East Coast and Midwest clients in Orlando during the following week. It will provide insights on kids' and families' media consumption, discuss its branded content arm and introduce new programming, executives said.

This format is an extension of Disney Channel's "Disney Idea Days," which it introduced this year. The network began hosting key clients over two-days at Disney locations to discuss marketers' goals and challenges and create personalized solutions for brands.

As part of this year's conversations, Ms. Ferro and her team will be pitching Disney Co-Op, the company's new branded-content arm. The division, which started this year and predominantly focuses on moms, is tasked with creating short-form content for advertisers and to push it out over social media.

When it comes to programming, Disney Channel has two new original movies in the works: "Invisible Sister," about a girl whose science project makes her popular sister invisible, and "Further Adventures in Babysitting," a reimaging of the 1987 film, "Adventures in Babysitting."

Disney XD will bow a "Guardians of the Galaxy" animated series in the fall, with "Star Wars Rebels" returning for season two this summer. It also picked up "Future-Worm," created by director Ryan Quincy of "South Park" and IFC's "Out There," about a boy who creates a time machine lunch box and befriends a fearless worm from the future.

Disney Jr., meanwhile, will introduce its first Hispanic princess, Elena of Avalor.

While Disney Channel continues to retain its spot as the No. 1 cable network among kids 2 to 11 and 6 to 11, it's seen viewership decline over the past year. Both demos were down about 21% in 2014.

Disney Channel has typically hosted more traditional upfront presentations and parties, where it invites media buyers, clients and their children to hobnob with Disney Channel stars. Last year, the network hosted a road show with Gary Marsh, president and chief creative officer, Disney Channels Worldwide.

But coming off a lackluster upfront marketplace last year, it seems TV networks are reconsidering how to approach presentations this time around. Discovery Communications is opting to forego its usual presentation for a road show, Hallmark Channel has canceled its traditional upfront press lunch and Turner Broadcasting is hosting one large presentation for all of its channels.

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