Digital Transformation of Walt Disney
1. Executive Summery
Walt Disney is considered as a giant company in media and entertainment since early 2000. Company major competitor is Amazon, and Netflix. Since the establishment, company innovate lots of technological development like 2D, 3D, and 4D viewing system, Over the top (OTT) services. In early 2000, company starts analysing big data to improve customer experiences when they visit Disney theme park, they have used artificial intelligence like Mymagic+ which includes MagicBand, is a great innovation for monitoring customer movement in the amusement park, customizing their choice, controlling different famous attraction by customer. Fastpass is another big introduction to improve quick reservation system. Later, Social, ethical, and behavioural implication of Disney major Digital transformation practices has been discussed with probable future challenges like Disney+ launching in a competitive market, and business closure due to coronavirus pandemic makes a loss for the company last year.
Digital transformation involved non-innovation businesses, software start-ups and technology-based giants. This framework involves businesses and stakeholders in a variety of industries of all sizes (Warner & Wäger, 2019). Private, public, and almost all industry organisations, were encouraged to explore digital technology, platforms and infrastructure and have often had no alternative but to embrace cutting edge technology and its applications. Digital transformation, fostering creativity of business models and creating customer value has changed how businesses work, build connections with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders in recent years (Bresciani et al. 2018). Devices and artificial intelligence have largely contributed to advanced technologies, providing plenty of opportunity for an efficient transformation of operations and enabling business cooperation and asset sharing (van de Wetering, 2019). In addition, technology has had an impact on industry employees and thus helps employees to emphasise their main strengths through real-time information and AI decision-making support. In media and entertainment industry, Disney has always been a leader in technological and digital transformation and continues to adapt to its challenges.
In terms of media evolution, several studies examined problems of media fragmentation and audience fragmentation (Schultz et al., 2012), cross-mediality and media synergies (Naik and Peters, 2009). Kerr and Schultz (2010) stress the importance of technological changes in media and communication that lead to two types of communications marketing that are not managed independently by managers (Kerr and Schultz, 2010). The role of digital technology has shifted from a marginal source of productivity to a transformation (Ross et al., 2017). Organizations increasingly recognise the importance of creativity to defeat rivals and revolutionise existing business models (Rachinger et al., 2019). This digitalization transforms consumers’ perceptions across the world and businesses can reassess and refurbish how customers connect with businesses to boost their experience (Crittenden et al., 2019).
Organizations often redesign their internal processes, transform backend systems, and strengthen their contracting structures to integrate and streamline operations that contribute to productivity gains (Felch et al., 2019). These developments usually contribute significantly to the achievement of strategic objectives of an organisation (Tekic & Koroteev, 2019). As a result, firms in the media industry such as Disney invest in specialised teams or groups and agree to collaborate to ensure their polar curve (Forbes.com, 2017). This may include the development of innovation laboratories and hubs and bringing together various business components (Hund et al., 2019). When used, big data will help companies to understand emerging patterns, consumer desires and their purchasing behaviour (Davenport et al., 2018).
In this paper, digital transformation in the media and entertainment industry with a particular focus on Walt Disney and its technological innovation enforcement, Big Data analysing process, product and service customization using Artificial Intelligence (AI), customer interactive experience and the presence of Disney+ will be discussed. Later, discussing about social, ethical, and behavioural implication of digital transformation practices, company challenges and opportunities to clearly identify company technological position in the industry.
3. Company overview
Walt Disney is an entertainment and mass media multinational based in the United States, founded in 1923. It is a diversified company with five industries, including media, resorts and parks, product, and experiences, direct to customer and international entertainment studios and facilities. With a solid management team of 22 managers and 10 directors led by Robert A. Iger worldwide, the company has a total employee of approximately 203,000. Walt Disney works as an entertainment company worldwide with its subsidiaries. Domestic cable networks with ESPN, Disney, FX, NGF, Freeform, and ABC brands as well as 8 domestic TV stations have been established on the media of the organisation. This section also deals with television production and distribution. The parks, experiences, and products segment is comprised of 14 theme parks and resorts known as Disneyland in Florida, the Colonial Republic of California, Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai; 4 ship vacations Disney Cruise Line, i.e. Magic, Wonder, Dream, and Fantasy; 3500 Disney Vacation Club; Disney national geographical expeditions & adventures, Disney and Spa Hawaii and licences the Disney Resort in Japan for their third party intellectual property. The Studio Entertainment division of the corporation makes and distributes film footage in the Walt Disney pictures, Twentieth Century studios, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, Searchlight Pictures, and BlueSky Studios. It also creates, produces and licences live entertainment. The department is focused directly on consumer and international networks, which include Disney, ESPN, Fox, National Geographic, and Star; Disney+, Hot star, ESPN+, and Hulu; manages brands and sites such as Disney Movie, Disney, and Disney Digital Network. The company made net profits in 2020 of 65 billion dollars, 6 percent below 2019, and a total of 201 billion dollars of assets.
4. Digital Transformation of Disney
Digital advancement is adopted first in the media and entertainment industries. Every business field understands the need for physical and digital purposes to analyse big data. The media and entertainment industry are developing effectively together with innovative technological advances. The industry has been at the transition of rapid technological transformation focusing on enforcing artificial intelligence. Digital media was developed as a distributed alternative media, with an emphasis on print, movies, advertising, gaming, animations, radio, and music across all sub-sectors. It has also proven to be a core sales platform for various media companies to adopt digital strategies for their survival on the highly competitive market.
4.1. Enforcing technological innovation
Disney is generally regarded as the industry’s leader in the television and entertainment industries. It stretched the limits of art and technology by inventing multiple 3D virtual camera movement in a world limited to a 2D medium in 1937 with the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (The Take, 2018). Their core business strategy is technological transformation due to the rapid rise of digital streaming services like Netflix, amazon prime, Hulu affects the subscribers of Disney’s streaming business. Company purchase Maker studio in 2014 to be pioneer in content creator market help to compete with YouTube and Netflix (Weiss, 2015).
Digitization of media distribution replaced traditional DVDs and CDs and launch over the top services (OTTs) like Netflix, amazon prime, Hulu etc (Watson, 2020). Traditional producers of media content were forced to adapt the way they provide content for their end customers. In 2012, Disney agreed with Netflix which hold 64% of OTT market share with 120 million subscribers in US that it would bring all films of the studio, including live movies by Disney and Pixar’s franchises, exclusively to Netflix (Bishop, 2017). Despite its partnership with Netflix, Disney has experimented with different proprietary OTT offers such as the internalisation of the Disney Life application. After unsuccessful attempt of releasing first Disney app in the UK, Disney purchase 75% stake in MLB’s streaming company BAMTech in 2017 with a view to double down company streaming effort. Additionally, Disney unveiled two new BAMTech premium streaming services — one focused on sports programming and available via ESPN Apps (launched in Spring 2018) and another focused-on films and television shows (launched in 2019) (Huddleston Jr, 2017). Apart from launching its own premium streaming service, Disney has revealed that it would use its applications to produce a range of original television shows. Disney also partnered with Snapchat in 2015 to produce temporary stories as part of their efforts to attract a younger audience. They offer a paid ESPN subscription model after a huge decline of subscriber in 2016 to make the pricing reasonable for the consumer.
4.2. Analysing Big data
The media and entertainment company consider ‘Big Data’ as the 4 V’s i.e. data volume, data velocity analysis, structured and unstructured data variety and data value means quality and effect in business strategy (Russom, 2011). Big Data tends to bulk amount of data by regular storage and processing infrastructure sets that require time to analyse (Bollier, 2010; Manovich, 2012;). Furthermore, analysing Big data will reflect the user history except the reason behind it. Manovich (2012) challenges the importance of subsequent findings for the individual or group in his discussion of Big Data Analysis Tools. Thus, the importance of the observed data and/or analyses is critical to the discussion of big data.
Disney uses predictive model for data mining to understand individual guests’ past conduct and preferences more specifically, to identify the type of holiday packages that guests prefer (Bishop, 2017) and enable Disney’s Call Centre operators to offer low-cost families on their list, leading to improved business repeats. Disney leverages significant real-time analytics in its daily operations to enhance the consumer experience at its theme parks, resulting in an exponentially rise in sales (barwick, 2012). Forecasting model to predict waiting time at popular attractions, the company tries to help customer decision making process through providing estimated waiting rather than waiting in a queue, using Fastpass for getting an hour window of virtual queue for famous attraction (Buczkowski, and Chu, 2012). Disney also manages inventory through forecasting model, hence, simplify business operations.
4.3. Product and service customization by AI
It seems that artificial intelligence is the next with its innovative promises (Castelino, 2018). Few documents demonstrate the applications and consequences of artificial intelligence for the media sector’s particular business and customer characteristics (Picard, 2005), as well as the difficulty of creating content based on judgement, perception, imagination, and communication (Gentzkow, 2018).
MyMagic+ is a multibillion-dollar investment by Disney that incorporates a website, mobile app, and bracelet that enables visitors to collectively customise their experiences in a Disney park. To facilitate the process of service customization, Disney instals doors equipped with radio frequency readers and scanners in parks, hotels, restaurants, and attractions.
Disney initiate Magicband with radio frequency devices to personalize visitor experience by sending signal to Disney parks, hotel, or road. Moreover, Disney installed sensors throughout the parks that flow guest activity data. MagicBands and these sensors, also called the Internet of Things (IoT), transform Disney attractions into giant data processors. “The magic” starts with the Disney entertainment park booking process, where visitors can purchase tickets online or via mobile apps available on all platforms. Upon booking, visitors will receive a MagicBand, a wristband embedded with an RFID chip. This band doubles as an entry ticket, a key to the hotel room, a method of payment at a variety of shops, and a Fastpass. As part of a modern “vacation management scheme,” visitors can be monitored in the park, and the authority can analyse their buying habits using pre-installed artificial intelligence.
Digital media data are the by-product of users daily social behaviour observed from the traces left to examine human interaction (Vogt et al., 2012) ensuring ecological validity of data (Mehl & Gill, 2010). In combination with contextual data, the content posted on platforms can be analysed using digital data media to explore and find patterns in human behaviour, such as via visualisation (Dodge, 2005).
Disney places a premium on deciphering these tastes and behaviours patterns. For instance, knowing where guests have purchased — and what they purchased — enables Disney to deliver customised offers to its guests. PhotoPass Memory Maker allows visitors to add their MagicBand, Memory Maker, or Disney PhotoPass cards for 30 days and access photos taken at attractions, restaurants, character gatherings, and entertainment venues. Visitors have the digital right to print or download as many photographs as they want, or all of them, at an additional charge (Barnes, and Koblin, 2017). Additionally, Disney took steps to automatically connect riders’ images to their guests’ MagicBands.
4.4. Customer interactive experience
Companies appear to have a similar enthusiasm for AI in the advertising and media sectors. In an industry survey, 87% of managers thought AI is important for product offering, whereas 92% found AI vital for business process (Deloitte, 2017). AI is expected to play an increasing role in marketing and media contexts, with the volume, sources, and speed of “big data” continually increased (Forrester, 2017). In a world of data and direct consumption, media needs to meet the audience’s expectations more quickly and better than other technology companies (Raconteur, 2018).
Disney made high-tech makeover for traditional shop to sought new ways for digital way of client interaction with various part of Disney family, and improve customer experience over and above theme parks. Customer can customise their shopping experience with an in-store application i.e. interactive touchscreen kiosk, customer can browse through 3D video clips, articles, and feeds from all Disney Store and DisneyStore.com products and discover the latest news on the Disney Store (Palmeri, 2014).
4.5. Digital presence through Disney+
A variety of things means digital transformation to digitise every business transaction in your brand, is very important for any company in media and entertainment industry. The addition of an AI bot to app or website can assist customer service, digitalization and automatic charging, and personalization of marketing and communications via data. Disney+ is Disney’s recent push into the world of streaming and its own digital transformation. Their content has been approved for competitors like Netflix in recent history. But Disney has now re-controlled its own content to start Disney+. Recently, Disney+’s sales eclipsed $20 million in its first month of release. Disney+ is already competitive with Netflix’s having 24 million subscribers for the app. Digital transformation that is capable of many traditional brands. Their enormous brand power can bring a brand into the digital landscape of the 21st century and compete with the disrupting industries.
5. Social ethical and behavioural implication
The Disney content could convert fantasy world into reality specially it creates wonderful imagination for children, touch people’s lives and be the source of happiness and inspiration through Disneyland creation. Walt Disney covers almost whole entertainment world with its magical and cheerful content which inspire many visitors for its amusement parks every year create queueing outside its popular rides (Niles, 2014). Disney latest AI technology Fastpass solves this problem very easily and increase its popularity. It creates a virtual queueing system of interested visitor helps to reduce waiting time in long queue. Fastpass creates a flexible time for tour around the parks specially in vacation time when it is in need to relief unnecessary stress while visiting (Niles, 2014). It helps the visitor to arrive at reservation time without waiting for rides like Toy Story Midway Mania, Soarin’, and the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train (Heaton, 2015). This is a paperless system using AI technology which lead to a relax start of parks visit every day. Furthermore, Fastpass technology helps visitors to change reservation anytime specially, if one rides like Pirates of the Caribbean broke down, visitor can quickly change the reservation to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (Heaton, 2015).
Disney is committed to providing a dignified and affordable work environment that respects everyone with no discrimination of race, sexual or sexual orientation, or any other reason prohibited by law in respect of sex, nationality, age, or marital status (Disney BoD, 2017). It uses prediction model for guaranteeing minimum level of garments inventory (Buczkowski, and Chu, 2012), hence improve labour management accuracy by 20% because of the application of rules based on demand technology (Sylt, 2014). Additionally, they trained new 70,000 technologically trained employee for analysing visitor data and helps to improve customer experience through operating radio frequency readers and scanners installed in 28,000 newly installed door on parks, hotels, stores, and attractions.
The MagicBand offers visitors a seamless experience together with mobile apps. Visitors can prepare tour with the magicband for several attractions and events, including character meetings, fireworks show or parades. To customise the guest experience, park staff can use hidden sensors in the bands to welcome a child personally on a birthday (Barnes, 2013). Photopass option in Magicband allows visitors download or print photos in house, or at a retailer within 45 days of picture taken and send at an additional cost.
6. Future Challenges and Opportunities
The Walt Disney Corporation is regarded as a leader in the media and entertainment industry as a result of its corporate strategy and acquisitions. While I believe Disney has taken positive measures to mitigate its exposure to cord cutting, I am worried about the company’s ability to create competitive content relevant with powerhouses such as Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and HBO, among others.
Disney is launching a new direct-to-consumer channel that will include videos from Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar. Disney+ will also further expand Disney’s direct-to-consumer offering in a highly competitive market dominated by Netflix’s vast film and television catalogue. Disney+’s simple monthly subscription plan is just $6.99, compared to $8.99 for Netflix. In general, It benefits consumers because it increases choice and allows for price reductions.
They can benefit from technology because they are kings of mass media production. Disney is not a technology or a software corporation, which means the technology cannot be customised for them. As technology progresses, smart devices have made it possible to access entertaining content despite Disney’s dearth of it. They can only maintain a safe zone if they create an app that only subscribes to Disney content.
Another challenge is the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak all over the world which impacted Disney business significantly at amusement parks, which is closed fully or partially in 2020 and 2021, suspension of cruise ship sailing and closure of retail store of Disney, merchandise business. The impact of these disruptions and the extent to which these disruptions have adverse effects on the results of financing and operations will depend on their length of time, in turn depending on how long and severely COVID-19’s consequences are not currently recognisable and the effect of government action imposed in response, among others.
Disney was founded in 1923 and remains strong with a vision of providing beautiful classics in 2D and 3D cartoons. They have been an iconic company for more than 95 years and reached billions in the hearts of the public. Their products and particularly their animated films are highly requested which ensures that Disney will unlikely disappear soon. Disney has acquired enough companies and sufficient cash flow for the coming years to sustain its company.
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