Disney is teaming up with Alibaba to launch its on-demand streaming service, DisneyLife, in China. All content will be served up by Wasu Media Network, in which Alibaba owns shares. This represents only the second market for DisneyLife, which had launched exclusively in the U.K. in late November.
The partnership with Alibaba, one of China’s biggest ecommerce companies, is key to the launch, given the inherent barriers that hinder foreign T.V. networks from entering the market. It’s the same reason on-demand services such as Netflix have yet to arrive on the scene, though Netflix was recently rumored to be partnering with Wanda to prepare for entry.
Disney’s multi-year license agreement covers classic movies from both Disney and Pixar’s back catalogs, as well as animation series, ebooks, games, songs, and more. In the U.K. it’s app-based, meaning you use your own devices, but interestingly, the China launch will require a separate piece of hardware. Alibaba refers to a Mickey Mouse-themed device in its press release, which it says will be available on pre-sale, in a range of colors, from December 15. It will cost RMB799 ($125.00), and comes with a one-year DisneyLife subscription.
Neither Alibaba nor Disney has revealed many more details about the device, or how much the standalone subscription will cost after one year. We’ve reached out to Alibaba, which has confirmed that the service will require this separate Mickey Mouse set-top box to work.