The Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger will unveil a new Disney web site on Jan. 8 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, a company spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.
Similar to News Corp.'s MySpace, the site will feature social networking, chat and video clips, but will incorporate parental controls for web-crawling kids. The site also offers Disney Xtreme Digital, a broadband tool that allows web surfers to create custom profiles and personal pages and share them with others, as well as Mickey, Pluto and the gang.
Redesigning Disney.com with digital media has been a top priority for Iger, according to reports. Critics of the old Disney.com say the revamp couldn't have come too soon. The old site was difficult to navigate and doesn't live up to Disney's standards.
As a parent of two girls, three and six, Debra Williamson, a senior analyst at research firm eMarketer, has had difficult times navigating the Disney.com site. A redesign is in need, she said.
"Where Disney might pick up the most traction is with young teens, or tweens, kids that are not quite ready for MySpace or Facebook, and parents that want a little more control over what their kids do online," Ms. Williamson said. "The site will offer ways for marketers to get involved, which they didn't have before. It will create new revenue streams."
The new Disney.com site, a year in the making, was redesigned to increase advertising opportunities, including video clips and sponsors. Disney also will sell subscription-based products through the site. Executives at the Burbank, Calif.-based company plan to demonstrate the site at CES next week.
Disney isn't the first to try a social networking site geared at tweens. Ten weeks after launching a version of MySpace, Wal-Mart Stores shut down The Hub, an online place where today's youth were encouraged to upload photos and videos, and create shopping lists of their favorite Walmart.com fashions.
Wal-Mart said it had planned to take down the site after the back-to-school season. But some industry watchers believe Wal-Mart's online destination failed miserably because it operated on the concept of a sanitized social networking site.
Steve Wadsworth oversees Disney Online, which was founded in 1995 and includes Toontown Online and Pirates of the Caribbean Online, scheduled for release in 2007.
Walt Disney operates Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, including the Disneyland, Epcot, and Disney-MGM Studios theme parks in Orlando, Fla.; produces films through Walt Disney Studios; and owns ABC television network, broadcast stations and radio stations.