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Alibaba and Disney strike a deal to bring shows and movies to China

Disney to launch new streaming service
Image used with permission by copyright holder

You may not be able to access Facebook, WhatsApp, or Twitter in China, but really, who needs mass communication when you have mass entertainment, courtesy of Disney? Thanks to a new licensing deal between Alibaba Group’s entertainment unit and every child’s favorite film studio, viewers throughout China will be able to watch a wide range of Disney’s animated shows and movies. More than 1,000 episodes from Disney series are covered under the agreement, as are many of the studio’s most popular films.

The deal makes Alibaba the largest distributor of Disney animated content in China.

The films and shows will be available for viewing on Alibaba’s streaming video service Youku, as well as a number of other distribution channels. The new partnership between the two conglomerates arrives nearly two years after Disney’s own streaming video service, DisneyLife, ceased operations in China where it was live for just five months. Apparently, Chinese regulators ordered that the service be shut down. But now that a Chinese company is distributing Disney content, it looks like all systems are go this time around.

Series like DuckTales and My Friends Tigger and Pooh are included under the deal, and around 600 episodes will be made exclusive to Alibaba’s distribution channels for two years after the agreement is enacted. Alibaba can also show more than 100 live-action and animated Disney films, including hits like Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Frozen, and Pirates of the Caribbean. 

In total, Alibaba expects that the distribution agreement will allow around 30 million households to enjoy Disney content. In a press release, Youku president Yang Weidong said, “The addition of Disney content greatly enriches the library of quality international content on Alibaba’s media and entertainment ecosystem, giving us a leading edge in foreign content distribution in China.”

As it stands, Youku already reaches around 580 million devices and sees around 1.2 billion views each day, as per Alibaba’s news website Alizila. The platform is also said to have comparable licensing deals with other major studios like Warner Bros., Paramount, Fox, NBCUniversal, and Sony Pictures Television.

So if you’re planning a trip to China, you won’t be able to post photos of your travels to Instagram. But you’ll sure be able to watch all your favorite western movies.

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