Youth Impact Report 2011: Young at Chart

Impact: Solidified Radio Disney’s place as a kids and family music outlet in his year with the net
Next: Kicking off the fourth season of “N.B.T.” with an increased Disney Channel connection.
Causes: Glsen, which focuses on kids dealing with their sexuality and anti-bullying efforts, and the Trevor Project, a nationwide suicide prevention hotline.

After a dozen years of exec roles throughout Disney, Sean Cocchia was promoted to senior VP-general manager of Radio Disney last October. In the 12 months since, as the person responsible for strategic management, he has helped reinvent and reposition the network.

Once upon a time, Radio Disney targeted kids by playing Broadway-style music based on the Mouse House’s biggest hits. Under Cocchia, the net broadened its appeal by featuring top-40-style programming, original shows and talent searches to help promote new artists — to the extent that many parents continue to listen even when their kids aren’t around. More than half the station’s listeners are adults.

“Many of them grew up with Radio Disney and have their own kids now,” says the exec, whose strategy hinges on “acknowledging and embracing that we’re a kids and family radio station.”

Cocchia’s approach is reflected in promos and prizes intended for parents and kids to enjoy together, including tickets to the recent New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys reunion tour, an African safari and a trip to the premiere of the family robot-boxing film “Real Steel.”

Radio Disney itself has been around for 15 years, and the net’s anniversary next month “couldn’t be better timing,” notes Cocchia. “We’ve used our birthday celebration to look back at all the great acts Radio Disney helped grow and then connect them to today’s acts and music.”

As examples, he cites pairing Destiny’s Child with “today’s Beyonce” or resurrecting Will Smith’s “Men in Black” soundtrack. “Now we have Will’s daughter Willow with her hits,” he says.

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