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Disney streaming service is reportedly halted by Chinese regulators

Disney streaming service is reportedly halted by Chinese regulators
The Shanghai Disney Resort, set to open in June, is part of Disney's full-court press in China. The company's push there also included the DisneyLife streaming service. (Chinatopix)

Chinese regulators have reportedly suspended DisneyLife, a digital platform for Disney movies and videos that was launched in China five months ago.

The move comes as China tightens controls on foreign content online, a push that also resulted in the suspension of Apple Inc.'s iTunes store in China this month.

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DisneyLife —which is also available in Britain — was unveiled in China in December and includes a Mickey Mouse-shaped device that functions like an Apple TV or Roku box. The device, which costs about $120, connects to Disney movies, TV shows, music and games though an e-commerce platform operated by Alibaba.

The freeze began early last month, and customers have been seeking refunds for their Mickey Mouse hardware, according to Hong Kong's South China Morning Post.

Walt Disney Co. did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Alibaba declined to discuss the shutdown. Chinese regulators could not be reached for comment.

DisneyLife was part of Disney's full-court press in China. The company is on track to open a massive new Disney theme park in Shanghai in June.

Chinese regulators introduced new laws this year to manage foreign media, books, movies and music more strictly. Those laws require that content be hosted on local servers and that publishers of the content practice self-censorship.

Although it's a global economic power, China has dialed back freedom of expression and bolstered censorship under President Xi Jinping, who has been wary of foreign influence and is determined to consolidate his rule in the world's most populous country.

That environment can be unpredictable for foreign firms. Apple appeared to be in the good graces of regulators as recently as February, when Apple Pay was launched in China.

Apple said it hopes to restore its iTunes store in China, which could soon become the company's largest market.

Follow me on Twitter: @dhpierson

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