The Struggles of Disney Channel
At its peak in the 2000’s, Disney Channel was a competitive force in the realm of kids’ television. My, how times have changed since then!
As this space demonstrated back in 2017, Disney Channel and its sister network Disney XD have been losing numbers of subscribers to streaming video according to The Wall Street Journal, joining in the ranks of other Disney-owned TV brands that have lost viewership, including ABC, Freeform and ESPN.
What happened? How did a network that has a big name behind it end up not being as popular as it was when movies like High School Musical, shows like Lizzie McGuire, Hannah Montana, and Phineas and Ferb, and musical acts like the Jonas Brothers dominated the American mainstream? Could part of the problem some of the storylines they decided to put out to young children took a sharp turn to the left socially? Here are the stories Disney Channel has decided to own recently…
A character in a show aimed at ten-year-olds called Andi Mack coming out as gay at a young age:
The story arc will mark the channel’s first depiction of a coming-out journey. The character – 13-year-old Cyrus Goodman, played by 15-year-old Joshua Rush – will begin his self-discovery in this Friday’s second season one-hour premiere episode [October 27].
“Andi Mack is a story about ‘tweens’ figuring out who they are,” said Disney Channel in a statement. “(Creator) Terri Minsky, the cast and everyone involved in the show takes great care in ensuring that it’s appropriate for all audiences and sends a powerful message about inclusion and respect for humanity.”
A teen pregnancy plot line on that same program:
Ready for the secret? It turns out that Bex isn’t really Andi’s older sister, she’s her mother. And Andi’s mom (Friends‘ own Lauren “Not Rachel” Tom)? Yup, she’s actually her grandmother.
And a cartoon (that moved to the network from sister channel Disney XD) saying that being a princess is a “state of mind”:
On a recent episode of Star vs. The Forces of Evil, the character of Marco Diaz (voiced by Adam McArthur) disguised himself as Princess Turdina to help save the students at St. Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses from Ms. Heinous, the wicked headmistress.
Marco is about to reveal his truth to the students when Ms. Heinous storms in and outs him herself, pulling down his shirt to reveal a strand of chest hair. But the other princesses stand by Marco’s side.
These are just some of the examples of why Disney Channel has been struggling to compete with streaming video of all things. Had it not been for the fact that animated Mickey Mouse shorts and animated movies like Frozen continue to air on the channel, then the network probably would have been doomed. These troubles can only be attributed to two people, and they are Disney-ABC Television group president Ben Sherwood and Disney Channel boss Gary Marsh.
The former, who will be leaving Disney once their acquisition of the 20th Century Fox movie studio and associated entertainment assets from Rupert Murdoch closes, has allowed all of his broadcasting and cable operations – especially ABC – to alienate conservatives with social justice storylines in their entertainment programming while trashing President Trump in “news” shows. The latter, meanwhile, has allowed Sherwood’s toxic culture into his three kids’ TV channels.
Couple that with continuing criticism of the channel causing kids to imitate the smart-mouth attitudes of most of the characters in its tween-coms and a recent incident involving a 13-year-old boy that got an adult actor on Andi Mack named Stoney Westmoreland arrested and eventually fired, and you have yourself a pretty big public image nightmare.
It’s possible that Disney Channel’s recent turn to the left, as well as that of other channels like Freeform and the mainline ABC network, is Disney’s Hail Mary to the fact that their television brands are losing ground to a la carte services. After all, they are launching a new family-oriented streaming service called Disney+ later this year.
If they’re careful about staying away from inserting any overt political agenda (unlike their cable and broadcast assets) and strictly focus on entertaining the masses, that new service should do just fine. As for Disney Channel, they have a lot of work to do if they want conservative parents to trust them again.