Profile: Steve Wadsworth

Nov 11, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Title: President of the Walt Disney Internet Group
Background: As president of Walt Disney Internet Group Mr. Wadsworth oversees the company’s Internet businesses and has operational responsibility for Disney.com worldwide, FamilyFun.com, Movies.com, DisneyAuctions and the wireless businesses for all Disney properties. He became president of Disney Internet Group in 1999 and joined Disney Online, the company’s first Internet operation, when it launched in 1995.
Changing nature: The Disney Internet Group has spent the past 18 to 24 months remaking its image and business model following the dot-com bust. “We had been pretty aggressive in the heyday, and we realized some of the e-commerce and stuff [like online auctions] not core to our brand we should get out of,” he said. Part of the change was to create a tight integration of the Internet properties, such as ESPN.com, ABCNews.com, the theme park and resort sites and the Disney store Web site and their offline counterparts. “That’s where leverage is to be had,” he said.
Making money: The Disney Internet Group turned a profit last quarter for the first time. “It was not a huge amount, but we did cross the break-even threshold,” Mr. Wadsworth said. “We were projecting break-even for the last quarter and we were right on track.” Ad revenues are growing slightly, as are subscriptions for ESPN.com and ABCNews.com, he added. In late August the company rolled out a stand-alone on-demand news product from ABCNews.com. The service is priced at $4.95 per month and has been and remains bundled with Real Player’s Super Pass. “Our usage was high on Super Pass,” he said. “We got feedback from Real that we were near the top of usage, so we thought it would work on its own.” Most Walt Disney Internet Group properties are showing single-digit revenue growth over a year ago. ESPN.com is showing the strongest growth-in the double digits-and is a bellwether for the other properties, he said.
The ad model: The Internet has proved itself to be a viable advertising medium, he said. Ads have evolved from banners to buttons, rich media, skyscrapers, advertising that takes over the whole page, pop-unders, pop-ups and others. “The adaptability of the medium has demonstrated itself,” he said. For large campaigns, “Adding the Internet will help overall results.”