Radio Disney, the nationwide radio network that entertained young listeners for more than two decades and helped jump-start the music careers of Disney Channel stars like Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers and Selena Gomez, is set to end operations early next year, Disney's television division announced Thursday.

The move is part of Disney's increasing focus on its streaming platform, Disney+, and its television channels, according to Disney Branded Television. Consumers' growing interest in more personalized music experiences and the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on in-person musical events also contributed to the decision, the company said.

Thirty-six full- and part-time employees will be laid off as a result of the move, adding to a wave of layoffs at Disney during the pandemic. In September, Disney laid off thousands of employees at its U.S. theme parks, and Thursday more than 100 people, including some senior executives, were laid off across Walt Disney Television, a Disney spokesperson said.

Radio Disney Country, which debuted in 2015 as a digital-only platform, will also cease operations.

Started in 1996 as a terrestrial radio station, Radio Disney became a destination for preteens and teenagers, primarily playing pop music and songs popularized by Disney Channel shows.

"Radio Disney was definitely the first and one of the kind of most significant events in the development of the tween music industry," said Tyler Bickford, an associate professor of children's literature and childhood studies at the University of Pittsburgh and author of "Tween Pop: Children's Music and Public Culture."

NEWS SERVICES