New Disney App Looks to Rock the Cradle


Noting that preschool kids are remarkably adept at gravitating toward technology, Disney recently said it will market a new cartoon specifically for the iPad rather than using the standard TV or DVD routes.

The New York Times reported that the new Sheriff Callie's Wild West series will debut on the Apple device on Nov. 24, a first for Disney programmers, who point out that company research shows more than half of all households with children now own a tablet, up 40% from the year-ago period. Combined with its Disney Jr. app being downloaded 5 million times since its release last year, resulting in some 650 million video views, it seems a natural progression to develop programming that would be targeted first at mobile devices.

A new study shows 38% of children under the age of 2 have already used a smartphone or tablet. Common Sense Media found the amount of time toddlers are spending on these devices is growing, reaching 15 minutes a day in 2013 from just five minutes two years ago, the only media to see an increase in viewing time.

The House of Mouse isn't alone in seeing the potential for rocking the cradle: Viacom's Nickelodeon will soon be launching a Nick Jr. app aimed at preschoolers too.

Parents are gleeful with Disney's "tablet first" gambit, apparently thanking the entertainment powerhouse for giving them back their TVs. Sheriff Callie's Wild West, though, is scheduled to show up on TV in early 2014.

Last year's launch of the WATCH Disney app, giving viewers premium access to streaming video along with extensive offerings of on-demand episodes of Disney programming, marked recognition that mobile represented "the greatest opportunities for growth for video content providers." As Disney said at the time, nearly 80% of all media is consumed via apps.

With a portfolio of "appisodes" already available for viewing favorite shows on the iPad or iPhone, the only real new ground Disney is breaking here is developing content specifically for the tablet before any other medium. That it also recently completely redesigned its Disney Junior Worldwide site to reflect this priority should underscore the importance it places on the initiative and where it sees media heading.

While as parents we don't have to be Luddites to question whether it's a good idea for kids to enter the Matrix at such an early age, Disney sees mobile as the first screen kids are utilizing. That being the case, dedicated programming represents a smart way to get mouse ears on consumers at the earliest possible moment.

Disney's got its eye on you
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