That's Just Dumb, Disney

I'm a huge fan of all things Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) , but I find myself shaking my head at the family entertainment giant's launch of D23 yesterday.

Billed as the "first official community of Disney fans," D23 will offer members a quarterly publication, a Disney collectable gift, and discounts on special events, including the D23 Expo coming to Anaheim this September. One of the perks -- access to the D23 site, which features daily news and merchandise offers -- is available to non-members.

The catch, of course, is that the annual membership is priced at an economically insensitive $74.99. Unless that includes massive Disney Store and in-park deals, even die-hard, pin-trading Disney junkies are likely to balk at shelling out such a big a chunk of change for a "suitable for framing" certificate, a membership card, a tchotchke, and a glossy newsletter.

A bibbity bobbity blooper
Disney fans are so passionate about the company that they've already created free, lively online outlets such as Disboards, Mouse Planet, and AllEars.net. Even on Facebook, nearly 1.7 million fans congregate on the Disney fan page.

D23 should have probably been launched as an ambitious -- and free -- social networking site for Disneyphiles. That would have been a marketer's dream audience. Since it seems D23 members will be hit with a lot of opportunities to buy Disney merchandise, why not aim at as large an audience as possible? Instead, in this hard-knocks economy, Disney is asking folks to pay to receive glorified marketing material. Fat chance.

When CEO Bob Iger proposed a DVD rental club with an online streaming component earlier this month, the plan seemed plausible enough, given the premium competition in video services. But what's the competition for the $75 that Disney wants from D23 members?

  • Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN  ) charges $79 for Prime, giving members a year's worth of free two-day shipping on all Amazon-stocked merchandise.
  • Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Xbox Live offers a free Silver subscription, but diehard gamers pay $50 for a year of Gold, offering a year's worth of interactive gaming and streaming media goodies.
  • Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) charges $8.99 a month -- or $107.88 a year -- for its cheapest DVD rental program, which offers unlimited online streaming.
  • Sirius XM Radio (Nasdaq: SIRI  ) offers a family-filtered XM satellite radio subscription for just $11.99 a month, or $143.88 a year.
  • Six Flags (NYSE: SIX  ) will set you back just $59.99 for an annual pass, good at all of the chain's amusement parks.

Disney won't concede any of this, naturally. It would likely argue that its diehard fans will have no problem paying up for exclusive membership.

I think otherwise. By this time next year, I'd be shocked if the club is around in its present form. It'll be either dramatically enhanced to give Disney fanatics more bang for their Goofy bucks, or it will morph into either a much cheaper -- if not free -- program.

M-I-C these other headlines:

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can usually be found at Walt Disney World. Not today, though. He does own shares in Disney and Six Flags. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool's disclosure policy always lets its conscience be its guide.


Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (16)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2009, at 4:29 PM, pondee619 wrote:

    It is only dumb if you think Disney fans will leave because of the offering. Otherwise, why not try to get $75.00 from those willing to pay it. It's a little like being offered a renewal to a MF newsletter for $200 and, once you turn it down, getting a mailing offering the same for $150.00 plus a subscription to something you didn't want in the first place. Why not try for that extra $50.00?

    Do you think Disney fans will leave because of the offering? If not, what does Disney have to lose?

  • Report this Comment On March 11, 2009, at 5:57 PM, wendyjp wrote:

    There's a piece more to that arithmetic. If you want the magazine D23 (now available in limited outlets), it is a quarterly that costs $15.95 per issue, no ads (of course in a major sense it is entirely an ad). Reviews of it already available are overwhelmingly positive. The membership includes four issues. That's $64 right there. So membership is really only $11. I'm willing to see what my $11 will get for me, since I would have bought all the issues of the magazine.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 12:37 AM, anhewitt51 wrote:

    If you think $75 is a steep price, you should see what the fools over at the Motley Fool are asking for their new Duke Street service. It is WAY more than $75 dollars!

    I don't know about you but it seems at that price the Fool's do not want to provide investment ideas anymore, but instead want to take their subscriber's money and invest it for themselves.

    I know this market is very tempting, but someone's getting a little greedy. You are supposed to be helping investors see their way through this muddled market, not rob them blind!

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 9:29 AM, blkjkrabbit66 wrote:

    C'mon - $75 is $6.25 per month - I bet you just spent that much at Starbucks this morning. Disney has access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen riches from its storied history. $6.25 per month is not a bad price to pay for that access.

  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 5:46 PM, Dustysage wrote:

    It is a really insensitive price for a magazine and some perks in this market. Further, they wrap it all up as a "Fan" program. Gee, we love you so much we are only going to charge you $75 to read our corporate marketing. Golly, that's good stuff.

    I'm not knocking Disney for trying. They really SHOULD be reaching out to their fans. But the folks who are already buying their overpriced theme park tickets, DVDs, and merchandise deserve a program like this which is FREE. They can try to sell a magazine but mags are dying. Why not drop the mag and offer just the free fan site?

    Seems that they didn't really ask their fans what they wanted out of a fan program.

  • Report this Comment On May 22, 2009, at 12:09 AM, omnf809 wrote:

    I for one feel that as Disney maniacs we spend a whole lot of money - just check out the admission to Disneyland! I'm excited about being a part of the "Disney Movement".It does seem excessive but in this day of recession strapped people if you don't want to pay the membership fee then...Don't

    We live in a capitalistic country who's main function is to make money - are you truly surprised? It is what it is...

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