Disney and Nick Face Off on the Net

It's shaping up to be the hottest race on the Web. Much as they do on TV, Disney (DIS) and Viacom's (VIA/VIAB) Nickelodeon are duking it out online. And if the most recent numbers from Web-traffic researcher comScore (SCOR) are any indication, Disney is pulling into the lead.

Disney, which only a month back introduced a series of new features to its Disney.com site, saw its August traffic grow by a steep 9.6%, to 32.3 million unique users, according to comScore Media Metrix. Nick was second, with 28 million unique users, a 2.7% boost over the prior month.

In a bid to lure more traffic, Disney in mid-August tweaked its site with the addition of a portal that ties together its popular Club Penguin virtual world for kids, the multiplayer game Toontown, and a game based on its Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Disney also added a portal that showcases its library of TV shows, movies, and music videos, and lets consumers upload music videos tied to Disney music (and screened for appropriateness by Disney staffers).

Battle Heating Up

Disney and Viacom are eager to win a growing share of the time—and money—spent by kids and their families who increasingly turn to the Web for entertainment. Their battle has been escalating since early 2007, when Disney unveiled a series of changes designed to make its site less product-promotional and more of a social networking hub (BusinessWeek.com, 1/8/07).

Disney's video site alone proved to be a huge draw, with the company announcing it shipped 186.7 million online streams, boosted by a trailer of the megahit movie High School Musical. The company also showed music videos from its teen music stars Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers.

With that much firepower, Disney can claim a hefty chunk of the 67.3 million kids who went online in August, according to comScore. But Nickelodeon—a family of sites that includes Nick.com, featuring games and video clips, and Neopets, a virtual pet community—can claim a hefty advantage over Disney in user engagement numbers.

In August, the average user stayed on one of Nick's sites for more than 93 minutes, compared with more than 53 minutes for Disney. Even there, however, Disney seemed to be cutting into Nick's lead in time spent, which declined by 2% from July. By comparison, Disney site users stuck around for 6.2% longer, most likely as a result of the added entertainment content.

Disney Pushes Virtual Worlds

Both sites have come a long way since August 2007, when users spent an average of more than 43 minutes on Disney and 84 minutes with Nickelodeon, according to comScore Media Metrix.

The next shot to be fired in the kiddie site war? Within the coming week, Disney intends to roll out a beta version of its online Fairies game that lets users play the role of one of six fairies who live in Disney's mythical Pixie Hollow. By the end of the year, the company intends to introduce a subscription version of the game. Disney.com has already had heady success with its year-old virtual world Pirates of the Caribbean game, as well as its Club Penguin, which the company purchased in August 2007.


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