China strictly limits the entry of foreign broadcast channels in China, but content can be licensed to Chinese channels and platforms. Disney and Alibaba last year saw Disney Life, a joint venture online channel, canceled after it apparently fell foul of regulators. But prior to the Young deal, the studio was already one of the largest content distributors in China.
Under the new agreement, more than 1,000 episodes of Disney animated series will be released on Youku, via PC and mobile, and OTT platforms selected by Alibaba via SmartTV and some 30 million set-top boxes.
Up to 600 episodes are exclusive to Alibaba’s distribution channels for the first two years. Classic animated series covered by the deal include “DuckTales” and “My Friends Tigger & Pooh.” Other series and episodes are not exclusive to Youku, and are available on other platforms.
Additionally, 100 live-action and animated Disney movies, including “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and animated classics “Beauty and the Beast,” “Mulan” and “Frozen,” are covered by the Youku deal. They are not exclusive to Youku.
Youku is part of Alibaba’s Digital Media and Entertainment Group. It carries a mixed slate of foreign and local content, including acquired and original shows. The Digital Media group also includes web browser UC, separately listed film and TV group Alibaba Pictures, Alibaba Music, Alibaba Gaming and Alibaba Literature.
“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, Alibaba Digital Media, in a statement.