Disney (NYSE:DIS) raised the bar when it comes to managing theme park experiences in Florida a couple of years ago with its MyMagic+ technology, and now its fiercest competitor appears to be readying a rival platform.
Universal Orlando parent Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (NASDAQ: CMCSK) has been surveying park guests -- according to online forums -- and most of the questions revolve around similar offerings to Disney's MyMagic+ and MagicBand technology.
Disney's MagicBands are essentially bracelets with embedded RFID chips. Guests use the MagicBand wristbands to enter the parks, access expedited queues for the three rides or attractions that they can reserve ahead of time, and claim on-ride photos. Guests staying at any of the on-site resort hotels can also use the bands to charge their purchases throughout the parks.
Disney reportedly invested $1 billion on the technology, and it's just starting to scratch the surface. So much will be possible once consumers embrace the platform and stop fearing that Disney is tracking where they are within its resort. It's at that point that characters at meet-and-greet outposts can begin engaging with guests by name and patrons can receive smartphone updates when their favorite nearby attractions have minimal waits. Can you fathom the day when international guests hear Haunted Mansion "doom" buggy narration in their native languages? MagicBands can make it possible.
Comcast doesn't have $1 billion to spend on a MagicBand knockoff, but with Universal Orlando closing the attendance gap with Disney World's theme parks, it needs to start embracing the power of MagicBands. Comcast rolled out a price increase for admission at Universal Orlando on Wednesday, making its two parks as expensive as a one-day ticket to Disney World's Magic Kingdom -- and pricier than a single-day ticket to any of Disney World's three other parks. If it's pricing the single-day experience the same as if not more than a day at Disney World, it's going to have to meet the expectations of guests shelling out three figures for a day of fun.
Universal Orlando's survey asked guests how much they would be willing to pay for its own RFID wristband and the perks that they would expect. Disney gives MagicBands away to annual pass holders and resort guests, but fancier and customized versions are sold throughout the resort. MagicBands work with the official My Disney Experience app, powered by MyMagic+ to offer the ability to change FastPass ride reservation times and update restaurant reservations -- things that Universal Orlando's app have yet to do.
That will change. Comcast doesn't have much of a choice. It's closing in on Disney in terms of park popularity. Now it has to arm itself with the ride reservations platform and experience-enhancing wristbands to put it together. The war for theme park supremacy in Central Florida is about to get even more interesting.