Disney’s Growing Demand for Platform Professionals

Strategic shifts are driving new talent needs

The Walt Disney Company is not typically grouped as a platform company. The global multidivisional enterprise, with a current market cap of $335 billion, is rarely mentioned in platform academic articles or in the Amazon, Google and Facebook obsessed tech press. However, major strategic shifts are moving its business model and talent needs in a platform direction, driven by the pivot to direct-to-consumer channels and the successful launch of Disney+. Recent moves into NFTs and the metaverse will further reinforce these trends.

Disney has over 200,000 employees. It, therefore, has a large talent pool to draw from as it transitions to new business models.1  But even these broad internal capabilities are not always sufficient, leading hiring managers to turn to external recruiting to fill specialized needs. A case in point is a role posted for a Senior Manager Ecommerce Marketplace.  

Disney’s post for this role states:

We are looking for a Senior Manager, Marketplace Activation to lead e-commerce growth opportunities across our network of 3rd party retailers and affiliate marketing partners to help grow Disney's Consumer Product business. Reporting to the Director of the department, you will build a roadmap that maximizes e-commerce media buying opportunities and expands the reach of our growing retail marketplace ecosystem. You will work closely with external partners and internal team members to develop, test, and optimize new e-commerce growth strategies. You will evaluate opportunities to develop a growth roadmap, and bring experience building partnerships. And you'll lead some of our Cast in bringing this vision to life.

Back in March, Disney announced that was shifting to a more decisive e-commerce strategy. As a result, it would close at least 20% of its retail stores before the end of the year or some 60 locations across North America. At the time of the announcement, Disney-owned retail outlets stood at approximately 300 stores worldwide. The announcement represented a pruning rather than a wholesale abandonment for it did not affect the 600 Disney Parks stores, shop-in-shop locations in stores like Target, and outlet locations, and third-party retailers around the world.  

The company cited changing consumer behaviors and its strategy of “providing a more seamless, personalized and franchise-focused e-commerce experience through its ShopDisney platform, which will be complemented by greater integration with Disney Parks apps and social media platforms.”2 

The closures are part of the shift to a direct-to-consumer e-commerce platform strategy and therefore the need for a Senior Manager for its Ecommerce Marketplace. According to Disney, the role will have the responsibility to:

  • Grow our marketplace and affiliate marketing portfolio, maximizing revenue and margin across a broad network of 3rd party partners.

  • Oversee media buying efforts on 3rd party retail e-commerce marketplaces (i.e., Amazon).

  • Create a vision to expand business opportunities on retail e-commerce marketplaces (i.e., Amazon), grow the reach and performance of our media buys, and use 1st party data strategically to improve performance).

  • Oversee our affiliate marketing and influencer strategy, and look for opportunities to promote additional growth here and lead team members to bring that vision to life.

  • Direct the growth efforts behind our affiliate marketing business and expanding our ability to use Disney membership-based programs.

To secure the position, Disney is requiring at least 10 years of experience in digital marketing & business development, with a strong preference for candidates with a deep background in e-commerce. The company also expects candidates to have strong project management and/or portfolio management skills since they will be responsible for organizing and leading multiple projects and therefore must be comfortable operating in an environment with shifting priorities, and able to work with multiple internal and external teams (such as operations, product management, analytics, planning, fulfillment, and marketing) to launch and enhance new e-commerce marketplace programs.

The ecommerce marketplace is not an area where Disney is looking for platform experience. Another area is Disney’s advertising engine. The company is working to streamline and automate the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution (DMED) Ad Platform.

The DMED unit is responsible for the P&L management and all distribution, network and engineering operations, sales advertising, data and certain key technology functions worldwide for the company’s content engines. In addition to managing the operations of streaming services including Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+ and Disney+Hotstar; and domestic broadcast and cable television networks, it also operates the DMED Ad Platform, which integrates thousands of advertisers with billions of ads served per month. Before being served to a viewer, each one of these ads is sent through a workflow involving sales and planning, targeting, trafficking, and quality control.

The DMED Ad Platform group is responsible for delivering global adverting technology solutions. It builds and maintains proprietary technology, ranging from ad serving and ad delivery, campaign management, reporting as well as all the integrations internal and external that are associated with modern video advertising business.

There are a number of job searches underway for technical positions within this group.  One is for Senior Product Manager, Core Ad Platform Services & API’s.  This search states:

As a Senior Product Manager I, within the Ad Platform technology team at DMED, you will be a part of the team redefining TV advertising. You will be responsible for establishing the strategy and drive execution to establish the future of The Walt Disney Company’s advertising core decisioning, ad platform services and API related needs. The right person for this role can identify business value, solve complex problems, concisely articulate solutions to technical and non-technical stakeholders and ultimately drive results. If you are someone who can drive technical strategy and bring a passion for building the future of advertising technology, at a fast pace, this is a great role for you.

Another role is for a Senior Designer - UX Platform (Storytelling). The post for this position states: 

DMED Technology Design is the unified design org for 90+ customer-facing websites/apps and hundreds of enterprise products in the Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution (DMED) Technology organization. We are the storytellers responsible for adding “something special” to our consumers’ experience every day through exciting design, artwork, branding and UX globally. We are responsible for driving the product design, user experiences, creative direction, production design, motion design, service design, UX copywriting, UX research and UX engineering. It is our job to create a framework that delivers consistent, creative and innovative user experiences for people – whether they are using Disney’s consumer-facing products, or the platforms, products and tools that help power our business. Crucially, how we do that work must be both imaginative and efficient, allowing us to also free our team devote energy to using design to drive innovation.

In addition to supporting a complex tech stack, Disney is also seeking platform professionals for roles focused on the distribution of content across its media and e-commerce platforms. There are active job searches underway on both the East Coast for its New York City operations as well as on the West Coast in its Burbank, California operations. 

The role for “East” is for a Senior Analyst, Business Strategy and Development (East). The posting for this role states:  

Platform Distribution Strategy is responsible for applying ingenuity and critical thinking skills to advance the Media Networks, Direct-To-Consumer, Digital Transactional, and Theatrical businesses. Platform Distribution Strategy is looking for a Sr. Analyst, Business Strategy and Development to identify, create, and evaluate sales strategies and tactics to advance the content distribution business. Working hand-in-hand with the Platform Distribution Sales teams, this Sr. Analyst will play a critical role in evaluating deal proposals and developing negotiation strategies for distributors like digital platforms and both traditional and digital MVPDs. In addition, the Sr. Analyst will play a supporting role in projects that help shape Disney Platform Distribution’s long-term strategy, including evaluating new opportunities, strategic approaches, and marketplace trends.

The table below provides a selected list of these platform positions:

Other initiatives are also likely to drive additional need for platform talent. Although still early days, Disney has begun to explore opportunities around non fungible tokens (NFTs). In June, its subsidiary, Marvel Entertainment announced the first official NFTs based on the superhero, Spider-Man. (In 2009, Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment for US$4 billion). The goal is to give fans an opportunity to purchase and interact with official Marvel NFT digital collectibles, 3D statues, and digital comic books. Fans can buy and collect these NFTs; trade and hunt for rare NFT comic books and collectibles; and display their collection in virtual showrooms.

The first NFT drop took place on August 7th. Marvel tapped Orbis Blockchain Technologies, a small company out of New Zealand which operates the VeVe NFT platform to launch the project.     

Disney has also signaled its ambition to develop a Disneyland-themed metaverse. The company’s chief technology officer Tilak Mandadi explained:

As we look to the future, connected park experiences that transcend the physical and digital barrier and unlock new layers of storytelling are a very exciting focus of ours. I call this concept the ‘theme park metaverse’ – this is where physical and digital worlds converge, with wearables, smartphones and digital access points immersing the guests in the metaverse experiences.

The applications are broad and will aim to bridge customer experiences in the company’s parks, hotels, cruise ships as well extend into the millions of homes in the US and abroad that have signed up to receive Disney’s streaming services.3  

As NFTs and metaverse investments take off and gain broader mass-market appeal, as many expect, Disney will need to invest in specialized platform talent. Both NFTs and the metaverse are platforms plays. As Disney’s investments in these areas grow, either through collaboration with NFT and metaverse platform providers or through the creation of its own platform or platforms, it will need new talent to drive these initiatives.   Some of this talent will be developed internally, while other strategic hires will be recruited from outside the company.

The bottom line is that we can expect growing demand for these new platform professional job roles in the coming months and years. 

Photo credits: Denys Nevozhai, August 25, 2017, upspash and Travis Gergen, January 20, 2017 upsplash.