Wisdom.Applied Wednesday: Ad-free Disney Channel in the Midst of the Changing Television Industry

“Oh, my gosh, did you see what happened on Orange is the New Black last night?”

“No, no, no don’t tell me! I had to catch up on episodes of Graceland before the new episode, so now I have to watch the recording…”

Odds are that you have heard a conversation like this recently. TV talk is something that consumes a good amount of the average American dialog. In a normal week, the masses are fighting to keep up with House of Cards, Mad Men, Scandal and a number of other programs that vie for their attention, and they often employ other methods (such as DVR and online channels) to catch what they want to see. The television market is oversaturated; there is just too much to watch.

On television today, dozens of channels feature slews of sitcoms and reality shows, making it hard for modern viewers to choose one to watch and thus leading to “audience fragmentation.” This influx of shows has also produced a dramatic change in the old television advertising model and a grand reduction in advertising sales. Nowadays, companies are turning to agreements with Netflix and Amazon to make money off of their shows.

One network, however, is not changing its ways in the midst of all this chaos, and that is Disney Channel (cue the nostalgic sighs). Disney Channel was one of the first cable networks on television, and has since maintained a large following of kids and pre-teenagers off of its cheesy yet lovable original series and movies. This Wisdom.Applied Wednesday, let’s explore how the network stays alive in this competitive market.

While it’s impressive that Millennials still reminisce about “classics” like Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens and The Cheetah Girls (BuzzFeed even recently released a ranking of the top original movies), what is perhaps even more impressive is that Disney Channel is still thriving off its ad-free model. Very few outside products or services have ever been advertised on Disney Channel. But how is that possible, you may ask. How does the network survive and make money?

The answer: It’s Disney. Disney has parks, movies and resorts. Disney has clothes, accessories and Mickey Mouse. In the television industry alone, they own ESPN, ABC and A + E (umbrella networks that own the likes of ESPN Deportes, ESPN Classic, ABC Family, Lifetime and the History Channel). All of this leads to a tremendous amount of power and prestige, as Disney doesn’t need to do anything else but advertise pieces of itself.

If you’re like me, seeing this long list of assets belonging to a single company makes you feel a bit, well, unsettled. I love a classic Disney show as much as the next person, believe me. I also enjoy an overdramatic movie on Lifetime once in awhile, but does that mean it’s fair that while other networks desperately try to keep viewers, Disney is basically never in jeopardy? Perhaps this is something new to consider in this overextended television world.

As TV continues to produce more and more content for viewers to sift through, competition between networks is also on the rise, creating the potential for issues never before seen. And all we viewers can do is sit back, relax and watch… unless Orange is the New Black is on, that is.

Cover Photo Source: s_bukley / Shutterstock.com

Tess is a Consulting and Account Services Junior Executive at SJG. She is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, and in her free time she enjoys volunteering, spending time with friends and family and staying active by swimming and running. She might also be found watching Spanish and Latin American movies, reading a classic novel or listening to the Les Miserables soundtrack on repeat.