Alibaba signs deal with Disney to stream its animated shows in China

Alibaba Group’s entertainment unit has signed a major licensing deal to show many of Disney’s animated series and movies on Youku, its streaming video service, and other distribution channels. The agreement covers more than 1,000 episodes from Disney series, as well as many of its films, and means Alibaba is now the largest distributor of Disney animations in China.

The licensing deal was made between Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group and Buena Vista International, the Walt Disney Company business that handles worldwide distribution for its shows and movies. It covers series like “DuckTales” and “My Friends Tigger and Pooh” and makes 600 episodes exclusive to Alibaba’s distribution channels for the first two years of the deal. Alibaba also got licensing rights to more than 100 live-action and animated Disney films, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “Mulan,” “Frozen” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”

Disney’s new partnership with Alibaba comes nearly two years after its streaming video service, DisneyLife, stopped operating in China just five months after launching there, reportedly at the behest of Chinese regulators. Disney also teamed up with Alibaba to offer DisneyLife in China, but one factor in its closure may have been the fact that its launch coincided with the enactment of new laws that require foreign companies to gain government approval before publishing online content.

Alibaba said in a press announcement that Youku and the other OTT platforms it will distribute Disney animations on will cover about 30 million households. In the 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.”