CNN recently reported that Disney is able to return to screening its movies in China again because Alibaba announced a deal to enable Disney streaming on its proprietary video platform. This is a major development for Disney in terms of expanded potential viewership of its content because there are more than 30 million homes in China that are capable of accessing Youku, the video platform offered by Alibaba.
Disney’s previous attempt to allow for streaming of its content in China involved a failed partnership with Alibaba that only lasted for five months in 2016. Other U.S. based companies have encountered serious challenges in streaming their content in China because they have been unable to surmount the obstacles imposed by the Chinese regulatory authorities. Essentially, only by partnering with a local Chinese company have an U.S. content providers been able to successfully screen their content in China so far. Netflix is among the content producing giants who have been unable to break down the Chinese wall against international content screening services. It remains to be seen how much editing or censorship will be required of Disney tv and movie content before it is accessible to the masses in China.
While the value of the deal between Alibaba and Disney has not yet been announced, it is safe to say that the long-term implications for Disney are going to be quite dramatic. Disney had previously announced that it was putting off plans to build an extravagant theme park in Shanghai because it was not able to screen any of its movie and tv content in China. This new deal has now offered an opening into reigniting plans to build a Disney theme park in China. Given the huge population and budding market for domestic tourism, this development could be a major win for Disney.