Disney Expands Wireless Content Business

  |  October 25, 2004   |  Comments

Starwave Mobile will use Disney's established content and operations teams and global distribution relationships to publish third-party mobile content.

The Walt Disney Internet Group (WDIG) launched Starwave Mobile, a licensing and publishing business focusing on non-Disney branded mobile games and entertainment.

"This move marks a significant shift in our wireless strategy as it is the first time we are publishing third-party content," said Larry Shapiro, EVP and general manager, North American mobile, WDIG. "It opens up a tremendous growth channel for WDIG, expanding our content line-up in key demographics. And it provides a simple means for third-parties to get their mobile titles quickly and widely distributed."

The business will complement Disney Mobile, which publishes Disney-branded content, with initial game licenses Trivial Pursuit, Don Bluth's Dragon's Lair, Hudson Entertainment properties such as Burger Time and Bomberman, and mobile content from Pucca, a popular series of characters from Korea which Starwave will distribute in Japan. Starwave also plans to publish original games developed in-house. Starwave will begin publishing this fall in the United States, Canada and Japan, and plans to expand to other markets around the globe.

Shapiro said the opportunity to develop content that is not geared toward kids and family is the primary reason WDIG developed the Starwave business.

"These licenses are great examples of our new strategy to expand into key demographics, beyond what we typically reach with Disney Mobile, through a varied line-up of strongly branded licenses," Shapiro said. "There is a need for a swift path to consumer handsets and by leveraging WDIG's existing infrastructure, that is a role Starwave can play."

WDIG was an early entrant to the mobile content market in 1999, when it launched text-based content services in the U.S. under the ABCNEWS and ESPN brands. In August 2000, the Disney-i service launched with NTT DoCoMo in Japan, and today Disney Mobile is the top branded mobile content provider in Japan. The business has expanded into 25 countries and its centralized content library includes more than 6,000 individual products across nearly 20 product categories.

"We were early and aggressive in building our global wireless infrastructure and strong carrier relationships, and now have great efficiencies and scalability," said Mark Handler, EVP and managing director, WDIG International. "With Starwave Mobile, we can tap this existing infrastructure for content outside of Disney."

Starwave was founded in 1993 by Microsoft co-founder and technology investor Paul Allen, and created Disney's ESPN Sports Zone Online and ABCNews.com Web sites in the mid 1990s. Disney purchased Starwave in 1998, and it became the foundation for WDIG's technology platform and infrastructure.

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Kevin Newcomb

Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.

Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.

With a combination of real-world marketing experience and years of business journalism, Kevin brings to ClickZ a unique ability to deliver news and training materials that help online marketers do their jobs better.

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