21 February 2019
DisneyLife is available through Alibaba’s online shopping site for US$125. Photo: Disney
DisneyLife is available through Alibaba’s online shopping site for US$125. Photo: Disney

Alibaba, Disney team up to offer web-streaming service in China

E-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and US entertainment conglomerate Walt Disney Co. announced a multiyear licensing agreement for a device that will deliver Disney and Pixar movies, games and travel services in China.

Called DisneyLife, the Mickey Mouse-themed system is available through Alibaba’s online shopping site for US$125, Bloomberg reported, citing a joint statement from the companies.

The web-streaming service allows Alibaba’s customers in China to access Disney content as well as plan visits to Hong Kong Disneyland and Shanghai Disney Resort, the companies said.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

DisneyLife “will provide the only holistic and trusted family-friendly digital destination in China”, said Wei Ming, co-president of Youku Tudou Business Group and general manager of Alibaba’s digital-entertainment unit.

Teaming up with Disney is Alibaba’s latest effort to bolster its growing media empire.

This month, the company agreed to buy Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post and other affiliated media assets for US$266 million.

In November, Alibaba agreed to acquire video service Youku Tudou Inc. to stream more content to Chinese internet users through control of the YouTube-like site.

The company also invested in Paramount Pictures’ latest movie, Mission Impossible, through its Alibaba Pictures Group unit.

All content offered from DisneyLife is through Wasu Media Network Co., one of the first companies in China to receive an internet-TV license from the government.

Wasu operates cable-TV and broadband networks in Hangzhou, where Alibaba is based.

Wasu said in April last year that it would sell a 20 percent stake to Ma, Ailbaba’s chairman, and fellow billionaire Shi Yuzhu.

Local partnerships in China allow US media companies to take advantage of the growth in online TV in the country. Bloomberg News had reported in May that Netflix was in talks with Wasu to enter the nation’s video market.

“Having a local market partner in China is essential to have a shot at success,” said Michael Morris, a Guggenheim Securities analyst.

But there’s also a tradeoff, he said. “You give up some economics by forming a partnership that you otherwise might not have to give up.”

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