Million Dollar Miley: How Disney Dominated the Tween Market Essay

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Million Dollar Miley How Disney Dominated the Tween Market

Disney has always been the “epitome” of innocence, childhood and fun. But with the focus on children experiencing their first moments of the magic and fantasy of Disney and adults reliving this childhood through Disneyland, animated movies and their own children’s experiences, Disney was missing a huge demographic. These “inbetweeners”, children between ages 9 and 14, were “too cool” for the childish Disney classics and they weren’t old enough to yearn for the childhood and innocence that Disney could remind them of. So Disney decided to hit them where they would listen most, television. The corporation first created Disney Channel as family channel with more children programming aimed at a younger age than “the tween”, but with careful programming decisions and the molding of a few new teen idols, most importantly Miley Cyrus, Disney created an empire. ! With limited programs aimed at the 9 to 14 age demographic in the late 80’s and early-mid 90’s, Disney finally started their trek to dominating the tween scene. In 1997 Disney re-did their entire television channel and released the first Disney Channel Original Series which was Flash Forward. This chronicled the lives of two 13 year old friends and their lives as friends. This was directly aimed at the tween demographic because it chronicled the lives of these two tweens that others could watch and relate to. With this television show, and the first Disney Channel Original Movies airing the same year, Disney started the beginning of a new era. This new age of shows and movies created specifically for this tween demographic grew larger and larger with brand new shows, like Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire, premiering in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. The most successful of these shows (before Hannah Montana) was That’s So Raven, starring The Cosby Show’s Raven Symone in the leading role. This show, about a teen psychic and her best friends, was the first of many Disney Channel Original series to make it past the 65 episode mark, though Disney had for a long time stated that no show would pass 65 episodes to prevent increasing production costs. In 2005, the president of Disney Channel, Rich Ross, stated “It is our most successful series. It has taken us where we got with ‘Lizzie’ [McGuire] and ratcheted it up to another level.” (Huff 2005). The show ended after 4 seasons, but spawned a spin-off and showed Disney what they could do with the success of a teen star with market potential in the “tween scene”. It was in March of 2006 when Disney created a TV show that would change a generation and bring them into more profit from than ever before. ! At 12 years old, Miley Cyrus originally auditioned for the sidekick character of

Disney’s newest TV program Hannah Montana, which was about rockstar who keeps her real identity a secret in order to live a “normal life”, but ended up landing the lead role. Success for both Miley and Disney grew quicker than either had expected. “[Hannah Montana] premiered with 5.5 million viewers and 2.3 million tweens (kids 9-14)” (Becker 2007). Disney had hit the tweens they were trying to reach since the beginning and they hit them hard. Hannah Montana quickly became a household name. Disney, like any smart business would, quickly put out as much merchandise as they could to give tweens more of this newest sensation. In 2007, just a few months after the show premiered, “Hannah clothes [were] already the No. 1 tween brand at Macy’s, and the show’s self-titled album [had] hit double platinum, with 2.2 million units sold since [that] October.”(Becker 2007). Disney had hit the jackpot and tweens everywhere were screaming Miley’s name. Disney had commodified this teenager and she became their most profitable product. After CDs, apparel, fragrances and school supplies, Disney decided to let Miley and Hannah go on tour. The concert quickly sold out, but Disney knew what the fans wanted and released a