'It's just us and Disney' says Universal's Tom Williams on theme park rivalry
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'It's just us and Disney' says Universal's Tom Williams on theme park rivalry

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It really is us and Disney, as far as parks go in terms of competition

Tom Williams, chair and CEO for Universal Parks and Resorts, has spoken on competition between the theme park operator and its greatest rival Disney, saying Universal's greatest strength is creating products that appeal to wide demographics.

Primarily going head-to-head in the competitive Orlando market, Universal recently announced plans for a fourth gate in Florida with its multi-billion-dollar Epic Universe attraction.

Joining Universal Studios Orlando, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, Universal's fourth property will offer increased competition to Disney, which operates four theme parks, two waterparks and the Disney Springs retail complex in the Orlando area alone.

"I think everybody understands between a destination park and a regional park," said Williams, speaking during the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2019 Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference. "Six Flags will be a regional park, Cedar Fair and so forth. SeaWorld is not quite the player that they used to be ever since Blackfish and so it really is us and Disney, as far as parks go in terms of competition."

Instead of competing for visitors, Williams says that Universal is instead focusing on its biggest strengths in a diverse audience.

"It's all about having a product where the kids are saying, 'mommy, daddy, we want to go see that' and to have the adults saying it as well," he said.

"I think we've really targeted the right segments demographically. It's no secret to anybody that Disney owns the very young ones. We don't try to compete for that. We have something for the younger sibling in the family group to do but we're not going to try to go head-to-head.

"It's not a matter of going how fast can you go or how high can you drop. It's more about telling the story in a way that immerses the visitor in the experience and gives them a desire to do it again and again. There are a lot of repeat visits, so I think that having the right IP as we do between Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Animation and Illumination Entertainment as well as some properties that we license, means we can offer the best of the best to our visitors."

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Tom Williams, chair and CEO for Universal Parks and Resorts, has spoken on competition between the theme park operator and its greatest rival Disney, saying Universal's greatest strength is creating products that appeal to wide demographics.
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