Underscoring the power of online platforms as a key promotional tool in the Middle Kingdom, Disney has partnered with giant Youku Tudou for the local marketing of its Marvel stable of films and TV shows. In a deal announced this morning in Beijing, Youku Tudou will leverage its 500M unique monthly users to exclusively market the studio’s properties via trailers, ticketing, live events and original programming dedicated to theatrical features. The deal is a coup for Youku Tudou, but could be further cause for concern from traditional players as Internet giants increasingly move closer to big screen activities in the rapidly expanding market.
Although there was no mention of how this deal might expand to Disney’s other films, including those from Pixar or the Star Wars franchise, it comes ahead of the next Marvel release, July’s Ant-Man. Both Disney and Marvel are already hugely popular in China — and in a country that is heavily reliant on the Internet for its entertainment choices, yet still rabidly consumes movies in theaters, the belief is that Youku Tudou’s strength as the leading online movie marketing platform means its efforts have greater audience impact than traditional offline advertising.
Youku Tudou says the Marvel brand’s coterie of titles has had over 530M cumulative views on its platform across movies, TV series, trailers, original productions, and live-streaming. Online marketing efforts contributed to boosting Avengers: Age Of Ultron‘s box office while trailers and Youku Original productions surrounding the film have received over 25.7M views. Ultron, which is currently in theaters, has amassed $226.6M in its first three weeks.
Online marketing was also instrumental in lifting Captain America: The Winter Soldier to $116M at the turnstiles versus the first installment’s $13M, says Youku Tudou. Furthermore, trailers and Youku Original productions for Winter Soldier and Guardians Of The Galaxy have over 41M cumulative views with over 15.8M combined VOD views on the platform, the company said.
As online giants including Youku Tudou, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent expand into film production, distribution, screening and marketing, there is some concern among traditional players. Research by the FT‘s China Confidential recently showed that online platforms could eventually replace traditional promotion and distribution methods. Alibaba, for example, invested in 2014 smash Breakup Buddies which was co-distributed by subsidiary Maoyan and heavily pushed on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter in which Alibaba holds a 32% stake. Tickets sold via Maoyan accounted for about 40% of the box office, the FT reported.