Someday, Disney hopes its princes will come.
The entertainment giant, which has made billions catering to the princess fantasies of young girls, plans to relaunch Toon Disney as Disney XD, a cable channel that will target boys. The move, under wraps for more than a year, is an attempt by the company to capture a market that has long eluded it.
Starting in February, Disney XD will seek to become to young dudes what Disney Channel, with its lineup of tweeny bopper programs such as "High School Musical," "Hannah Montana" and "Camp Rock" is to girls. Disney XD, aiming at boys ages 6 to 14, will offer original action-adventure and comedy series, movies, animation and sports-themed shows developed with Walt Disney Co.-owned ESPN.
"What was clear to me, and clear to us, is we had a huge opportunity to create content that were boys' favorites," said Rich Ross, president of Disney Channels Worldwide.
Tween boys, ages 9 to 14, account for about $50 billion in spending worldwide, said Greg Kahn, senior vice president of strategic insights for media buying firm Optimedia International USA Inc. Advertisers are eager to reach these young consumers, not just snag a portion of their disposable income, but to build a loyalty they hope will extend into even more free-spending teen years, he said.
But the Disney Channel has struggled for years to find the right programming formula to lure boys, who tend to gravitate to Viacom's Nickelodeon and Time Warner's Cartoon Network -- that is, when they're not spending time playing video games. Disney Channel's popular live-action shows, from its early tween phenomenon, "Lizzie McGuire," through its current pop-culture sensation, "Hannah Montana," mainly attract girls.
Efforts to bring in more boys, through male-led series such as "Even Stevens" or "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody," still haven't succeeded enough to close the gender gap between female and male viewers.