Playdom’s Pleasants And Disney’s Wadsworth On The Deal

Steve Wadsworth and John Pleasants, Disney Interactive Media Group

So, why did Disney (NYSE: DIS) decide to buy Playdom? Disney Interactive Media Group President Steve Wadsworth told paidContent in a joint interview with Playdom CEO (and now Disney EVP) John Pleasants that Disney is on a “fairly aggressive mission to build a high-growth interactive media business.” He said the company had identified social games as an “incredibly high growth” category in which it had no “meaningful presence.”

“This category is growing at a rate that is in a lot of ways unprecedented,” he said, adding that Disney believes that will continue for “a long time.” Wadsworth said that Playdom provides it with the “skills and capability” to be a major player in the market.

When will we see Disney games on Facebook? The two men wouldn’t provide any specifics. “The ideas are many as you can imagine,” Pleasants said, adding that ideas have been piling in since the deal was announced. He said that Playdom won’t stop working on any of the 12 titles it currently has in production but would be looking for opportunities to leverage Disney’s brands — “if it’s the right fit.”

The deal: Disney venture arm Steamboat Ventures had participated in a recent $33 million add-on to Playdom’s first round of funding “without any thought that [they’d] buy out this company,” but Wadsworth said since that investment the two companies had gotten “a lot closer.”

The price tag: I asked both men about the purchase price, which is almost double what Electronic Arts (NSDQ: ERTS) paid for the bigger Playfish last year. Wadsworth said that Disney was “very focused on shareholder value,” again referring to the rapid growth of social games in defending the amount the company paid.

Pleasants also said the deal is structured so that Playdom’s shareholders will only get the $200 million earnout if its results are “very accretive” to Disney. “We have to earn our way to this valuation,” he said.

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