Business / Companies

Alibaba set for streaming launch

By Gao Yuan (China Daily) Updated: 2015-06-16 14:08

E-commerce giant aiming to redefine home entertainment

An online video streaming service is being launched by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, similar to products offered by Netflix and HBO.

The move is part of Alibaba's ambitions to build a digital entertainment empire in China, where about half a billion viewers are eager for new amusement channels.

Alibaba Pictures, a film affiliate of the company-which is based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province-said the platform will be a subscription product, with 90 percent of content only available for viewers who pay.

The company said the new platform, to be named Tmall Box Office, will be launched in about two months.

Patrick Liu, head of Alibaba's digital entertainment business, said the content for TBO will be bought from local producers and overseas markets. Alibaba will also produce its own programs.

"Alibaba is aiming to redefine home entertainment," Liu said, adding that TBO's goal in China is to become the next HBO or Netflix.

Chinese viewers have been lured away from television by Internet-based programs. The HBO fantasy drama Game of Thrones and Netflix's political satire House of Cards have been hugely popular with young audiences.

Alibaba already has a foot in the entertainment industry, with its film arm producing blockbusters and its online video sites winning market share.

It is not immediately clear how TBO will fit in with Youku Tudou Inc, a leading online video provider in China in which Alibaba bought a 16.5 percent stake for $1.22 billion last year.

Besides TBO, Alibaba has just set up a joint venture with a local cable provider to bring new movies to TVs that are connected to the Internet.

Huang Guofeng, an analyst at Internet consultancy Analysys International in Beijing, said running video streaming services on its own platform can help Alibaba to access firsthand data of user behavior-a treasured resource that Youku Tudou doesn't share with the company.

"By collecting viewer data, Alibaba can find out which part of a program attracted viewers the most and subsequently make its own dramas that cater to different groups of consumers," Huang said.

Ma Si contributed to this story.

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