Walt Disney Co. shutting down influential Radio Disney after two decades

Radio Disney's logo
Walt Disney Co. is planning to close its radio station operations
(Walt Disney Co.)

Radio Disney, which had a hand in launching the careers of such pop stars as Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato, is ending its run after more than two decades.

Walt Disney Co. is shutting down Radio Disney and Radio Disney Country, two children’s radio programming networks, in the first quarter of next year, the Burbank studio said in a statement.

Radio Disney first hit the L.A. airwaves in 1997 via KDIS-AM and more recently has been piping children’s music programs such as “Disney Junior,” dance music show “Saturday Night Party” and morning program “Morgan & Maddy in the Morning” through digital and satellite distribution partners including SiriusXM. Radio Disney in Latin America is a separate operation and will not be affected by the decision, Disney said.

Disneyland and Walt Disney World have been severely hobbled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sept. 29, 2020

The move comes as the entertainment giant aggressively pivots toward streaming and has been under pressure to cut costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The health crisis has hammered Disney, which last month posted a net loss of $2.8 billion for the 2020 fiscal year and has laid off tens of thousands of workers.

Since the coronavirus hit, Disney has accelerated efforts to focus its business on streaming, with Chief Executive Bob Chapek embarking on a major corporate restructuring to further prioritize creating content for its direct-to-consumer outlets, including Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+.


“The difficult decision to close these two radio networks coincided with Disney’s recently announced structural changes that call for Disney Branded Television to sharpen its focus on increasing production of kids’ and family content for Disney+ and Disney Channels,” the company said in a statement. “Division leaders also took into account the fast evolving media environment that provides more personalized music choices than ever to a generation of young consumers, and the ongoing public health crisis that continues to affect in-person music events.”

The restructuring will lead to the layoffs of 36 full- and part-time employees, the company said.

Radio Disney, which showcased the music of Disney Channel stars, launched in November 1996 as a terrestrial broadcast network, premiering in Los Angeles in 1997. By 2005 it was in 97% of the U.S. on more than 50 terrestrial radio stations, and through SiriusXM it had offshoots in the U.K., Japan and Latin America.

Radio Disney Country launched in 2015 as a digital-only platform and was expanded in 2017 with the launch of two L.A. stations and increased digital streaming.

Over the last decade, Disney has been making radio station divestitures, selling 23 stations in major markets such as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia in 2014. The company also sold stations in 2010 and 2013.