Questions for Disney Online’s Ken Goldstein

Ken Goldstein When you mention Disney and online video in the same breath, ESPN Motion comes immediately to mind. But Walt Disney Internet Group has rolled Motion out across numerous of its other properties, and Ken Goldstein is driving the company’s strategy on those sites.

Goldstein is executive VP and managing director of Disney Online, which covers a wide range of sites geared toward kids and families — sites like Disney.com, FamilyFun.com and Movies.com. These sites’ collective reach can climb as high as 15 million uniques, according to comScore Media Metrix.

Goldstein said building out the video content on this group of sites is a key priority for his team, as the company strives to fulfill on the promise of broadband by providing richer experiences for kids and young teens. ClickZ recently caught up with Goldstein to discuss the use of video and other rich content on Disney Online, and to get a picture of the ad model that might back it up.

Q. Sum up Disney Online’s video efforts to date. How would you characterize the audience and advertiser pick-up?

A. We’ve been utilizing video pretty much from the introduction of the first media players online, starting with movie trailers and other promotional assets, video shorts and original animation.

It’s been an evolutionary process over the past several years. What we’ve seen change is the desirability of that real estate to third party marketers. Whereas before we were putting it out there as entertainment for our guests, now what we’re finding with Motion is that if we provide the story environment, we can then break from the story to provide an advertising message to good effect. People are comfortable with it because it’s similar to TV. We even use some of the same language that you find on television when introducing commercial breaks.

The number of people consuming video is high, but it’s hard to measure. It’s a very steep curve and there’s very high demand for the advertising.

Q.What are the most popular content types?

A. Everything in the tween programming block is very popular. Playhouse Disney, which is in the preschool block, is also popular. This is moms surfing with their kids.

Games are always number one. We have a massively multiplayer world called Toon Town, an ad free site with a subscription fee. Blast, for slightly younger children, is another ad free games and entertainment area on the site.

On Movies.com, movie ads are consumed as content themselves. Sometimes, if an advertiser wants us to slot a movie trailer we might consider entertaining or exciting, we’ll consider running that up front [before other video content].

Q.How are you rolling video out across the various properties?

A. Motion is present on all of the major branded venues I oversee. It’s on Disney.com, Familyfun.com and Movies.com. It’s fairly ubiquitous.

What we’re having a lot of fun with is original programming. Where we started out repurposing promotional assets, now we’re shooting original stuff.

We are working with various category experts inside the company. We’re currently writing a series with [Disney archivist] Dave Smith, called “Gears Behind the Ears.” It’s very much like what Uncle Walt did, hosting “The Wonderful World of Color” on Sunday nights. We’re telling the Disney story through the voice of a new generation.

What we’ve also done is make the video interactive. Two, three months ago we launched a series called Mushu video. Mushu comes on and sets up the video clip with a trivia question. You submit your answer and we take a break for an advertising message. Then you find out if you were correct.

We have started a whole series of original clips on Family Fun TV, all shot in our test kitchen in Massuchusetts. We can show you in two or three minutes how to make holiday cupcakes. It’s an environment where family friendly advertisers can do very well. Family Fun TV is entirely original content. We will continue to build it out into categories like family travel and crafts.

On Movies.com, we have exclusive rights to Ebert & Roper at the Movies. When you land on the homepage, there they are with their thumbs up or thumbs down, which is obviously a great venue for studios that have a movie coming out this week.

Q.Are you looking at personalization and searching within your video offerings, similar to what ESPN is experimenting with?

A. It’s something I’ve started to look into on the Disney side, but we’re really focused on programming. That’s more important than assembling a large library where people can pick and choose what they want. I don’t think we’re at a time when the library is extensive enough to make that worthwhile.

Q.What’s on the horizon for the sites you oversee?

A. It’s an interesting time. About half of our audience is broadband and the other half is not. You really have to program for both; we’re coming into an era where we have to look to the future but not walk away from the installed base.

You will see the broadband area becoming increasingly rich, with greater use of video. I think you’ll see the online experience of broadband getting much closer to the experience of gaming.

Sound is going to be a very big deal in broadband, maybe even more so than 3D. Because young kids don’t yet read well, sound will be a big deal in coaching kids through the games and bringing life through dialogue to interactive storytelling.

Q. Describe a day in the life of Ken Goldstein.

A. I have good days and bad days, but I never have boring days. I spend a tremendous amount of time with the staff, making sure everybody’s eye is on the ball, creating the best content experience we can and living up to the brand. The brand is so cherished, and fulfilling on that promise takes a tremendous amount of care.

I spend a lot of time with clients, prospecting, visiting with our sponsors, in focus groups, visiting with our guests and working on how to make the experience better.

Our team is so talented, hardworking and focused that I really do trust the day-to-day to them. I get to spend most of my time thinking about what comes next, who we should be in business with, how to secure the resources and do the planning. It’s a lot of fun thinking about what the future’s going to be like.

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