Alibaba’s entertainment arm said Monday it has signed a licensing agreement with The Walt Disney Co., which will make its platforms China’s most-comprehensive destination for Disney animations.
Under the multi-year deal with Buena Vista International, a Disney-owned motion picture distributor, Youku subscribers will be able to access over 1,000 episodes of animated TV series on the online video hub. Also, nearly 30 million households using Alibaba’s set-top boxes and partnering SmartTV platforms will also be able to view up to 1000 episodes of animated series, as well as hundreds of Disney movies, such as the popular live-action film series “Pirates of the Caribbean”, or animated classics like “Beauty and the Beast”, “Mulan” and “Frozen.”
Youku is China’s largest video streaming service and is wholly owned the Alibaba Digitial Media and Entertainment Group.
“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 Youku. “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.”
Youku, which reaches 580 million devices each day and gets about 1.2 billion views, already has similar licensing deals with Warner Bros., Paramount, Fox, NBCUniversal and Sony Pictures Television, among others. The string of agreements is part of a larger effort by Alibaba’s entertainment arm- to deliver more global content to consumers in China, the world’s second-biggest film market.
In November, Youku inked an exclusive deal for Netflix to distribute its hit original drama series Day and Night to over 109 million subscribers worldwide—momentous for the video streaming platform, as it looks to produce more higher-quality homegrown content.
The movie and TV series distribution deal marks a deepening partnership with Alibaba, as Disney advances into China. “China is incredibly important, where we have invested an enormous amount of time, people, resources and money, in growing our business over the last decades,” Andy Bird, chairman of Walt Disney International, said in Xinhua news report last year.
“Now, we are doing the pre-production for a remake of Mulan, which gives an opportunity to have Chinese talents and also to use Chinese locations,” Bird added. Outside of the movie market, Shanghai Disneyland is already China’s largest amusement park, attracting more than 11 million visitors in its debut year.
Hong Ying, general manager at Alifish, the licensing and entertainment business unit of Alibaba, previously said after year-long frequent discussions with Disney, their key collaboration in 2018 will include helping Disney efficiently target potential consumers, engage with their fanbase, and develop innovative products and marketing campaigns for the Chinese market.
In May last year, Disney opened a lifestyle online shop targeting fashionistas on Tmall, Alibaba’s B2C e-commerce website, adding to its existing official flagship that offers childrenswear and merchandise for a younger crowd.