Andrew Sugerman, EVP, Publishing and Digital Media, Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media

With the launch of the Disney Digital Network, the global conglomerate is giving audiences a steady dose of wholesome entertainment—to the tune of 6,000 pieces of content a month.

Andrew Sugerman, executive vice president of publishing and digital media for Disney consumer products and interactive media, joined AListDaily to discuss a new age for the house of mouse. Digital content reaches millennials and Gen Z but above all else, he said, the brand’s focus is on what it does best—tell stories.

“Storytelling is literally in our DNA,” Sugerman said. “It’s where we start and finish each day at Disney. With Disney Digital Network, we have the opportunity to both extend The Walt Disney Company’s stories in new ways, but to also share them every day through digital platforms. When we look at how best to create new narratives around our library of timeless stories we think about reaching today’s audiences on the platforms where they are—that’s on mobile, that’s on social and that’s ‘in-feed.’”

Not every digital platform is created equal, Sugerman explained, adding that the Disney Digital Network listens to viewers about what to watch, and where.

“We consider each platform’s capabilities—what works well on one platform may not resonate on others. We also think about which formats work best to tell each type of story—short-form videos, Boomerangs, gifs and more. Most importantly, in order to reach a digital-first audience, we have to make our content relevant every day and we achieve this by tying Disney stories to current trends through our highly agile and responsive social editorial newsroom.”

Disney has always fostered new talent through its TV shows and films. Now in the digital era, the brand utilizes influencers who are already celebrities in their own right.

“One key component of Disney Digital Network is our portfolio of Maker creators, who are digital and social media creators and influencers,” said Sugerman. “In working with this new generation of digital storytellers, we chose a ‘quality-versus-quantity’ approach where we only work with a small set of creators whose creativity and areas of interest align with our editorial properties (including Oh My Disney, Babble and Polaris), align with our brand and brand safety guidelines, and have deep and meaningful relationships with their audience.”

Even the new Mouseketeers got their start as Maker creators, said Sugerman, but weren’t chosen according to online popularity.

“These creators were chosen for their genuine abilities and talent as choreographers, singers, actors and performers—although they had varying levels of social followers,” he said. “In partnership with other influencers in our network, we’re helping this new talent to grow their following while bringing their skills and capabilities to Disney. They created the majority of the content for the recently launched Club Mickey Mouse because we wanted the content to feel right and familiar for the audience we’re targeting—the Gen Z audience, also known as the creator generation.”

Walt Disney was all about using the latest technology to entertain audiences from the first full-length animated film to animatronics in the parks. The Walt Disney Company even filed a patent for a projected augmented reality system. Sugerman says that the company is driven by innovation, but not for innovations’ sake.

“As storytellers, we continue to evolve with our audience in how and where they consume content and the teams across Disney continue to innovate the art of storytelling by leveraging new technologies, new content formats and new platforms to deliver compelling content experiences,” he explained. “We’re always experimenting with new technology and looking at ways we can partner up to bring our stories, content and brands to new platforms and technology.”

“Whether it be embedding content experiences in messaging platforms, leveraging AR and VR to deepen engagement or bringing storytelling to life through voice interaction on intelligent personal assistants—there are so many opportunities we could pursue, but it’s important for us to focus on what works best for us as a brand, and most importantly, what works for our stories. We only want to pursue the technology and platforms that are additive to storytelling and do not get in the way of the story.”