The Walt Disney Company’s films and series are heading to China through a new streaming deal set with Alibaba’s SVOD Youku.
The deal covers more than 1,000 episodes of Disney animated series, Disney’s live-action films and its animated films including “Beauty and the Beast” and “Frozen.” Youku will make the content available online, on mobile devices and on some smart TVs.
“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,” said Yang Weidong, president of Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group’s video streaming platform Youku, in a statement. “We look forward to further cooperation with global entertainment companies, which will help increase our penetration in the family entertainment segment and strengthen Youku’s position as a leading multi-screen entertainment and media platform in China.”
The Alibaba deal marks a bit of a comeback in China for Disney, years after it was forced to shut down streaming there. DisneyLife, the company’s international streaming service, was taken down by Chinese regulators in 2016.
Disney has had mixed success breaking into China. The company operates Shanghai Disney, which opened in 2016 after Disney made certain concessions to the Chinese government. But earlier this year, Disney’s new Star Wars film, “The Last Jedi,” was pulled from theaters after a brief run in which it earned a fraction of what pulled in during its first week in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Disney is moving ahead with the launches of two new streaming services in the U.S.: ESPN+, a $4.99 per month complementary product launching this spring featuring live sports not featured on the ESPN linear channels, and a branded Disney streaming service due to launch in 2019.