Disney wants to own the Facebook for kids. Today it announced that it's buying 'Togetherville' a social network for kids 10 and under. (Disney did not announce the terms of the deal).
Togetherville is as squeaky clean as its name implies — it's designed to avoid all the bad stuff that open adult social networks bring, with careful monitoring of content, and parental supervision controls. Parents get total control — they log on and build their kids' network. The service does not serve ads to kids, for now, and for now, it's free. The potential for sponsorships, and the opportunity to serve ads to parents, seems quite lucrative.
This is hardly Disney's first turn at the social networking rodeo. Back in 2007 it bought Club Penguin, a multiplayer online game for kids. And it made two acquisitions last July that built up its presence in the social space — it bought Playdom, a social gaming site for $763 million and acquired music game developer Tapulous.
CEO Bob Iger is following through on the promises he made at last week's investor conference, where he said the company would invest more in social and mobile and build more franchises, to allow the Interactive Media Group to become profitable in 2013 (it's expected to lose $164 million in fiscal 2011).
It's also worth noting that Disney continues to brand itself as safe and family friendly, and reach younger and younger. We're seeing this with the consumer products division launching clothing for infants and with its "Disney Junior" programming segment, which will launch as a stand-alone channel. More than ever Disney wants to show that it's a trusted resource for parents of young kids, and what better place to show that than online.
Disney's not done investing in this space — expect the company to try to snap up any other social and mobile media content companies that do — or could — appeal to young kids. We can also expect to see the launch of some big franchises from Playdom.
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