Disney Then and Now

The Disney Channel has many similarities to Nickelodeon. The networks themselves are directed towards children. They are both branded towards children and they way each network does it is even similar. Disney Channel’s target audience is young children now, but it didn’t start out that way.

The Disney Channel was originally branded to people of all ages. It was a family network. The channel switched gears at night from kid-friendly shows to shows like The Legend of Zorro. Around the 1990s-early 2000s, Disney Channel began focusing more on pre-teens and teenagers. This is the generation I grew up in and the Disney Channel that I knew. The shows during this time were comedies that focused on family life and growing up. The Disney Channel original movies also followed this pattern. They showed relatable pre-teens going through everyday struggles.

These shows like Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens and Boy Meets World were ones that teens could relate to. They weren’t about silly problems that could easily be fixed or overly cheesy. They showed real life problems, which is why pre-teens/teens could relate so well.  Disney Channel took that and ran with it. They were ahead in the rankings when it came to other networks such as Nickelodeon that branded themselves towards pre-teens as well. Everything, during this time, from Disney original games, merchandise and clothing was marketed towards pre-teens/teens that watched these shows.

In about 2010, Disney Channel started marketing only towards younger children.

If you turn on Disney Channel today, you will see a show that is full of young children. These children are usually going to school or solving a problem that they created themselves.

The two clips provided are from Boy Meets World and its spin-off Girl Meets World. Just from watching these, you can see the difference in branding. In both clips there is some type of problem that needs to be solved, but in Boy Meets World the problem is more likely happen in real life.

It is clear that Disney Channel is currently targeting younger children than before. Disney currently runs an interactive website where children who watch the network can play games as their favorite characters. Disney has stores around the world that sells products, clothing and more for various TV shows and movies. Their main target audience are children ages 8-12 with the shows they have today. These children are usually middle class.

Disney is like Nickelodeon in that it’s a way of life. It’s a type of culture. There is loyalty to the brand. Like Nick, Disney makes kids feel like they are the ones in charge. Although Disney doesn’t give kids as much power as Nickelodeon.

Banet-Weiser, S. (2007). The Nickelodeon brand: Buying and selling the audience.
        Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship.
Jacobs, M., & Kelly, A. (Writers). (September, 1993). Boy Meets World [Television series]. Los
        Angeles, California: Disney Channel.
Jacobs, M., & Kelly, A. (Writers). (June, 2014). Girl Meets World [Television series]. Los
        Angeles, California: Disney Channel.

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