China's biggest online retailer, Taobao.com, will set up a joint venture with broadcaster Hunan Television, in a move to expand its portfolio beyond online shopping.
The new company, with a total investment of 100 million yuan, will produce TV programs related to online shopping and set up a new platform for selling products via Taobao.com. The plan also includes using pop stars from Hunan Television's roster.
"The joint venture is our attempt to combine the Internet and television, and find a new way to develop both," said Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba Group, the parent company of Taobao.com.
Taobao.com is said to be preparing for a public listing next year, but Ma declined to comment on that.
Recently the company has been expanding its reach to fields beyond the Internet and earlier this month joined forces with Wasu Digital TV Corporation Ltd to develop a TV-based shopping channel that links viewers with Taobao.com. The program is expected to air in the first half of 2010. The company is also planning to put out several weekly magazines and develop self-branded mobile phones with online shopping applications pre-installed.
"Taobao.com is no longer satisfied with the growth of its customers online and is trying hard to reach more potential customers by covering different media platforms," said Cao Fei, an analyst with research firm Analysys International.
Taobao.com now has 180 million registered users, which make up almost half of the 380 million Internet users in China.
While venturing into television may help diversify the company's services, it remains to be seen whether Taobao.com can prosper in the field, said Cao.