In what Bloomberg calls a “digital push,” Disney announced that it is closing 23 of its 24 terrestrial stations, laying off nearly 200 people in sales and operations. (See the intra-company memo from GM Phil Guerini below.)
Disney is shifting its efforts and resources from terrestrial to the broadly-termed “digital” realm, which in this case means program distribution on SiriusXM and online streaming platforms. The company maintains a Radio Disney mobile app.
The strategy shift represents what Disney calls “the habits of the consumers we serve.” Inside Radio reports that only 18% of Disney’s radio audience tune in via AM.FM radio, with over half (66%) listening to webcasts and mobile apps — Disney’s “national audience of kids and families” has migrated substantially to non-terrestrial listening.
Across all forms of media, digital technology continues to dramatically change consumer habits – from the iPad, mobile devices and the push of connected devices into the home – and these changes compel us to evaluate and evolve our businesses. Today, we’re announcing meaningful changes to our Radio Disney business.
Radio Disney will be increasing investment in both digital distribution platforms and music-centric programming. These decisions will optimize Radio Disney for long-term growth and better reflect the habits of the consumers we serve — a national audience of kids and families. We are partnering with the most popular digital radio services including our distribution partner of over 12 years, SiriusXM, and the newly forged agreements with ShowMobile, Slacker and Harman’s Aha Radio. We also have our fast growing Radio Disney App for iPhone, iPad and Android, our WATCH Disney Channel partnership and our Top 30 syndication partnership that’s building across the U.S. We will also be exploring new digital extensions of Radio Disney’s programming, including the Radio Disney Music Awards and Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing (N.B.T.).
As part of this investment shift, at the end of September, we will be selling 23 of our 24 local radio stations, retaining KDIS-AM Los Angeles to originate Radio Disney’s national network programming. The operations of the Los Angeles station will be picked up by the national team.
These changes will result in the elimination of some positions, adjustments to other roles and the addition of some new positions. Today and tomorrow, we will be talking individually to those directly affected. Please know that we approached this decision with care and rigor and will provide transition support to those who will be departing the organization.
I have always been impressed with the dedication and camaraderie of the people at the Radio Disney network and local stations. Thanks to that teamwork, Radio Disney leads the radio industry in delivering age-appropriate music and entertainment for kids and families. As we wish our colleagues all the best, we remain committed to continuing the momentum.