Disney bets on local content in mobiles

Disney bets on local content in mobiles

Mickey Mouse races down the streets of India in an autorickshaw. Donald Duck swims across the Ganga and dodges crocodiles to rescue girlfriend Daisy Duck. Goofy tells you jokes in Hindi, Tamil and Telugu—all on your mobile phone.

The Indianization of the hugely popular comic characters is part of The Walt Disney Co.’s three-way game plan to grow its business in India. An important part of this game plan is to use the mobile as the primary platform for deploying its content and services instead of the Internet, which remains its dominant platform in the US market.

“Disney wants to offer rich media content and interactivity, but broadband in India is not as big as we would like it," says T.N. Prabhu, director, Walt Disney Internet Group (WDIG), India. It found that the mobile platform offered the fastest deployment with the highest revenue.

The group has a three-pronged growth strategy in India—to increase its content portfolio, distributors and services.

Over the last eight months, WDIG, which manages the media company’s online properties, has launched several products on the mobile platform specifically for the Indian market. Disney is going about acquiring a local colour in two ways—by adapting Disney’s proprietary content to appeal to the local market and by offering services across distribution platforms more suited to the Indian market.

It has worked with local mobile services companies to develop India-specific games such as Mickey Mouse Rickshaw Rush, Donald Duck Ganga Kinare and Disney Twenty-twenty, a cricket game launched two weeks ago to coincide with the Twenty20 World Cup series. To address a market that is still voice-driven rather than data-driven, the company developed an interactive voice platform, where users can dial a number to listen to jokes and beauty tips (for teens). In July, it partnered with telecom service provider Reliance Communications Ltd to launch Disney Mobics, mobile flipbooks of popular Disney comics, a first for Disney in any market.

“India is among the top three priority markets for Disney outside the US," says Prabhu. The team here coordinates directly with Disney’s US headquarters, and has its backing to drive its mobile push in India. It launched its mobile Internet platform wap.disney.in in November last year, four months before it launched the Disney India website.

Globally, Disney is concentrating its efforts on its online platform, and Disney.com was recently named the fifth hottest Internet site by AdWeek Media.