Back at the height of the radio bidding wars in the 1990s, Disney made an ill advised decision. They decided to buy up AM stations in major markets to carry their bubble gum pre teen music, written by soulless computer algorithms that create random lyrics and tunes.
The focus of the stations was not the normal business model of larding up each hour with 18 minutes of advertisements and focusing on maximizing Arbitron ratings – it was a soft sell to promote Disney Music, the Disney Cable Channel, and the American version of the haj pilgrimage, to visit the holy land of Anaheim or Orlando. Disney is a lifestyle choice.
Two years ago, Disney pulled the plug on “over the air” radio, except for the mother ship of KDIS-AM. Stations were sold off, in many cases for only 1/3 of the price they paid for them 15 years earlier. Salem Radio bought many of them to launch Biz channels or Conservative talk radio.
Disney’s strategy in 2014 was it would move the programming to the Internet, however most moms driving their daughters around to soccer practice don’t have Internet access in their car radios. More tech savvy people might notice their car radio has an input jack or Bluetooth connection to stream a cell phone, but that burns cell data.
Quietly, Disney has been repopulating Radio Disney, operating on HD 2/3 channels, mostly operated by CBS Radio and Beasley. The new HD Radio owners have gotten much more aggressive at getting car makers to install HD capable radios as standard equipment, not special order options. Wikipedia lists 24 Radio Disney outlets on FM.
The dirty little secret is the original owners of the HD radio technology wanted it to fail. The FCC wants to migrate to digital radio eventually, but that might mean 10x as many radio “stations” in a city if we ended analog FM completely. More stations means a more fragmented audience which makes selling advertisements very much harder, when the biggest station in a market has a 2 share.