Disney acquires Club Penguin for $350M

Disney acquires Club Penguin for $350M

By ANICK JESDANUN AP Internet Writer

Club Penquin
NEW
YORK
—The Walt Disney Co. said Wednesday it has bought the popular
online kids hangout Club Penguin for $350 million, adding to its
portfolio a site that in less than two years has been become a rage
among preteens.

Club Penguin offers a mix of games and chatting
tools targeting kids ages 6-14. It nearly tripled in usage in the
United States over the past year, according to comScore Media Metrix,
and executives hope to expand to additional markets abroad and gain
even more customers through promotions on other Disney-branded sites.

"We
have been actively searching for an organization that not only shares
our values and concerns for children, but also has the ability and
desire to help us bring Club Penguin to more children throughout the
world," said Lane Merrifield, a Club Penguin co-founder. "We’ve found
that partner in Disney."

Although sites like Club Penguin and
its rival, Webkinz, are forcing parents to grapple with how young kids
should be roaming about and chatting with friends online, many Internet
safety experts believe these social-networking precursors are far safer
than News Corp.’s MySpace, Facebook and other hangouts for older users.

"Club Penguin embodies principles that are of the utmost
importance to Disney—providing high-quality family entertainment and
fostering parental trust," said Bob Iger, Disney’s president and chief
executive. "The founders have woven together new technologies and
creativity to build an incredibly compelling, immersive entertainment
experience for kids and families."

Disney said it has no
immediate plans to change Club Penguin’s operations, which will
continue to run from Kelowna, Canada. Club Penguin has more than
700,000 subscribers paying about $5 a month. A free version lacks many
features popular with kids, including the ability to decorate a virtual
igloo.

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