Disney unveils social networking for preteens
By Gina KeatingTue May 1, 9:34 PM ET
Walt Disney Co. unveiled a program on Tuesday to let preteens create personal mini Web sites like MySpace's very popular social networking site for older teens and young adults, with parental controls it hopes will create a safe haven.
The Disney feature, called Disney Xtreme Digital, or Disney XD, is aimed at kids under 14, with parents getting control over Internet activities, Paul Yanover, executive vice president and managing director of Disney Online, said in an interview.
A chat feature requires parental approval for kids to go beyond trading canned messages designed to prevent users from revealing personal information, or from using profanity.
Kids can gather games, videos and music files from Disney's promotions-rich Web site and place them on a page that they decorate with a selection of motifs from the company's rich character library.
Yanover said the feature limits kids to using Disney content on their Web sites, and would allow parents to monitor interaction. At the same time, Disney can protect its image on the freewheeling Web, he said.
"There is a weaving together of entertainment and promotion and marketing," he added. "It's difficult to say where one ends and the other begins."
The feature is meant for use on high-speed Internet. The approximately 30 million U.S. broadband households already make up about 90 percent of visitors to Disney.com, Yanover said.
Kids earn points for every activity they participate in on Disney XD, and can use the points to purchase items such as virtual stickers or Rube Goldberg-type machines like bubble makers for their pages.
The goal is to create a community of kid marketers for Disney, as kids visit each other's sites and talk up Disney TV shows, characters, and products.
"I want tons of kids immersed in my brands and franchises. What better marketer do I have than a kid?" Yanover said. "It's really about building a kid community ... (that) extends beyond individual Disney products, Web sites and titles."
The company unveiled the feature at a New York event featuring 'tween heartthrob Corbin Bleu, star of the popular Disney Channel movies "High School Musical" and "Jump In," whose new album debuted on the site.
MySpace is owned by News Corp.