Call it a Trojan mouse if you like: this is the streaming device that will bring Disney content to China. The $125 Mickey Mouse-shaped gadget was unveiled this week as part of a multiyear licensing agreement between The Walt Disney Company and China's retailing giant Alibaba, offering access to everything Disney, from films to ebooks.
Customers can plan trips to Disneyland resorts
The gadget is superficially similar to devices like Google's Chromecast or Amazon's Fire TV, plugging into customers' TVs and streaming digital content from the internet. However, instead of offering TV shows and movies from a range of different publishers, it's only connected to a single subscription service: DisneyLife. This on-demand digital library first launched in the UK in November, and offers access not only to Disney's films, cartoons, games, ebooks, and songs, but also lets customers buy Disney merchandise and plan trips to Disneyland theme parks.
The DisneyLife subscription service. (Alibaba)
The devices will ship from December 28th, and the $125 retail price will include a year's subscription to DisneyLife. Neither Alibaba nor Disney revealed how much subscriptions would cost after this initial period, but in the UK — where the service launched without a Mickey Mouse-shaped streaming box — the fee is $15 a month.
The Wall Street Journal notes that the device is hoped to fulfill a number of aims, including expanding Disney's revenue in China (at the moment, it mostly relies on the time-limited opportunities of box office sales), and helping Alibaba compete with rivals in the country's nascent market for streaming devices. The launch also comes as Disney prepares to open the doors to its Shanghai Disneyland theme park in spring 2016 — a project that been delayed by the Chinese government over concerns about deference to the country's culture. It's not clear if offering a Mickey Mouse-shaped idol to put in every Chinese home will help assuage such worries.