Disney.co.uk Relaunch Preview: More Video, Advertising, Fairies

Ten months after relaunching its US website with more video and community features, Disney (NYSE: DIS) performs the same task in the UK next Monday – but gave journalists an advance preview in a briefing this morning. I spoke with Walt Disney Internet Group’s EMEA SVP and MD Cindy Rose – also see some photos on Flickr, a presentation video and more details after the jump.

Plans: The idea is to bring Disney’s disparate brands and characters together under one roof, and the company is aiming to replicate a 25 percent traffic increase America’s Disney.com has seen since being retooled back in February. It’s essentially a Flash-heavy mega-portal designed to attract audiences to the Disney brand. France, Italy, Germany and Spain are next on the list for localisation but the company refused to detail how much investment has gone in to the roll-out.

Video: After describing an opening video presentation as “totally wicked”, Rose cited Ofcom figures showing 86 penetration of broadband amongst UK net users as one reason for bringing a video player front-and-centre of the new Disney.co.uk homepage. Despite the concentration on video, however “At launch, there will not be full-length feature films available on the site; it is coming some day. You’ll see exclusive content online that is based on those shows but what you will not see is those shows themselves.”

Features: The site includes three new kinds of navigation – section category, user’s gender and Disney characters – and includes a new “Xtreme Digital” (XD) section, laden with games, trivia, chat, video channels, social ratings and other widgets that can be custom-placed. That’s a response to Disney research showing those aged nine and above love personalisation and multi-tasking. Kids will also find so-called Speedchat features that can be customised with skins and stock phrases from properties like Pirates Of The Caribbean. Rose: “Our CEO refers to this as ‘Disney.com on steroids’ – hopefully without the harmful side-effects.” UK localisations of the Club Penguin and Pirates Of The Caribbean virtual worlds are coming next year.

Advertising: Missing from the preview, but Rose said the new site may offer ads via pre-roll video, widgets, sponsorships and overlays. “Banners and skyscrapers are the traditional form of internet advertising – over time, we’ll be developing other premium subscription-based services on the site.” That will include e-commerce merchandising and other as-yet-undetailed additions.

Mobile: Said Rose: “We’re planning to extend the Disney.co.uk experience to mobile and beyond in the not too distant future – this includes interacting with friends, personalised environments, playing in a virtual world.”

Fairies: In a playful mood demonstrating the new site, Disney Internet Group’s technology and operations VP Myles MacBean (whose Disney.co.uk username is CleverMrWhiskers): “With one click, you can be immersed in to a fairy world … You’ll be able to create your own fairy – I’ve even got my own fairy.”