CHILDREN’S MEDIA CONFERENCE: Television will continue to play a key role in kids entertainment despite a growing migration of viewers to digital platforms, the co-founder of virtual world Club Penguin has claimed.
Lane Merrifield, executive VP at Disney Online Studios, said that despite a clear shift in children’s consumption patterns toward virtual worlds and the “unstructured play” of online platforms, he “doesn’t see TV going anywhere anytime soon.”
The rise of Disney-owned Club Penguin and rivals such as Moshi Monsters has had executives questioning if the TV window remains important to developing a children’s brand in recent months.
But Merrifield rejected this notion and told C21: “As much as people always like to say ‘This is the killer of that’ and audiences shift and numbers go up and down, I truly do not believe any one medium is naturally going to take over another one.”
He predicted digital platforms would increasingly be where IP is created, saying: “The biggest change is a shift in mentality, that characters and stories have to start in a television or film space and then migrate to digital. What we’re finding more and more is great entertainment is coming out of the digital space, and that’s going to continue happening.”
Merrifield was speaking after his keynote speech at the Children’s Media Conference in the UK city of Sheffield, during which he took delegates through his company’s evolution from a three-man team to a company with more than 175 million registered user accounts. Disney acquired the firm, then known as New Horizons Interactive, for US$350m in 2007.
His speech talked up the importance of child safety, which has become headline news again in the past few days after Habbo was caught up in a paedophile scandal.
“From the very start, our vision for Club Penguin was to create a safe place for my kids and their friends to play online. The scale may now be bigger than I could ever have imagined, but that philosophy has not changed,” said Merrifield.
He announced a new £3m (US$4.7m) initiative that will involve Club Penguin using Disney TV channels, magazines and online platforms across EMEA to promote safety online.