Taken from the New York Times –
A SMART TV app being introduced by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts on Thursday will let potential travelers use their remote controls to research vacations at theme parks and hotels and on cruise ships and packaged tours.
Brad Baker, director of digital marketing for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said the advent of smart, or Internet-connected, TVs had created “a really interesting space for us, since there is now a new way for us to be able to tell our story.”
The app — which will be free and available initially through the Samsung smart TV app store, and in early April, through the LG smart TV app store and on Blu-ray players — was developed with BrightLine, an interactive television advertising and technology company based in New York. It aggregates videos, photographs, interactive theme park maps and other information from the websites of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts businesses and from their social media channels. New to the app is a trivia quiz as well as some videos. It also lets viewers request additional information, by submitting their email address.
Rob Aksman, co-founder and chief experience officer of BrightLine, said it was appropriate for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts to commission an app because it had “a lot of rich content consumers care about.” The large size of screens on many high-definition smart TVs should also benefit Disney, he added, because “screen size matters when it comes to influencing consumer behavior.”
David Bank, who follows the Walt Disney Company for RBC Capital Markets, said Walt Disney Parks and Resorts generated approximately 20 percent of the parent company’s annual operating income. The businesses in that division include Disneyland Resort; Walt Disney World Resort; Disney resorts in Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, and one scheduled to open in Shanghai in 2015; Disney Cruise Line; Disney Vacation Club, a time-share company; Aulani, a Hawaiian resort; Adventures by Disney, a tour operation; and Walt Disney Imagineering, a company that designs and builds Disney parks, ships and resorts.
Mr. Baker said the app was intended to cater to families gathered around their high-definition, smart TVs. The app will be offered at present only in the United States market; Mr. Baker said if it were widely used, it could be offered through additional smart TV systems featuring Roku boxes and other technology.
He declined to quantify what Walt Disney Parks and Resorts was spending on the app’s development. According to Kantar Media, advertising spending, in all media, by Adventures by Disney, Aulani, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Vacation Club, Disneyland and Walt Disney World ranged from $32 million in 2010 to $79 million last year.
John Greening, a professor of branding and marketing communications at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, said “the real magic of what Disney is doing is the depth of the experiences they’re showing; for example, there are over 40 videos on the different types of experiences you can have at theme parks. These things are going to be very effective in moving people down the pathway to purchase.”
Barbara Jones, a professor at the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, praised Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for “going to where people are. They’re spending more time with television, because this is arguably the golden age of television.”
Bjorn Hanson, divisional dean of the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at N.Y.U., predicted the app would help those prospective Disney guests who might be “intimidated” by the scale of Walt Disney World and the brand’s multiple offerings “feel more confident” about making their choices.