A little-noticed PR release came out of North Hollywood on July 29 announcing that Walt Disney Internet Group and KG Telecom had agreed to distribute Disney mobile wireless content to KG Telecom wireless subscribers. KG Telecom will be the first operator to launch Disney content on thei-mode platform in the Chinese market, and the agreement allows KGTelecom’s customers in Taiwan to subscribe to downloadable content, such as screen savers and ring tones, based on Disney’s lineup of popular characters including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck (WWJ’s favorite — Ed.), Goofy, and Snow White.
At launch, three services will be available, including Character Town (character screen savers), Melody Palace (ring tones based on popular Disney songs), and Disney Fan Magazine (updated Disney news and information).
The Disney Internet Group got its start on wireless in Japan in the summer of 2000 (over a year after i-mode’s start) with the launch of Disney-i on NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode platform in Japan. Today, Disney claims to have more than 2.5 million subscribers in Japan and they appear to be making over US$3 million **per month** here.
Sadly, this announcement is just one more piece of evidence proving that i-mode — the little made-in-Japan wireless Internet platform that could — has gone corporate and global, and now largely succeeds based on DoCoMo’s ability to attract global brand names as content partners. Further, DoCoMo’s carrier partners in Asia and elsewhere will be under a lot of pressure to set up deals similar to this one between KG Telecom and Disney, lest they be left with a great network but no recognized brand content to attract the thumb-surfing, packet-fee paying masses.
Like we said last week: DoCoMo, an engineering firm and telecom carrier, is slowly morphing (a la AOL-Time Warner) into some sort of weird media company and its cash-cow brand name and business model –i-mode — isn’t about people after all.
We wonder how much local, made-in-Taipei content will (a) ever appear on KGT i-mode, and (b) ever have the chance to earn a single dollar? Why is it that a happy, i-moding teen in Keelung City has to enrich Michael Eisner just to listen to a ring tone via i-mode?
If anyone ever thought that Japan’s fantastic experiment with the wireless Web — opening up a significant new mode of communication based on personal, always-on, pocket-sized Internet and email services — was a path to any sort of increased egalitarianism, freedom, or intellectual expression… forget it. In the end, it’s all about money.