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Alibaba to Launch SVOD Service in China

14 Jun, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Alibaba Group Holding reportedly plans to launch a video subscription streaming service in China in the coming months similar to Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video.

Alibaba, which touts itself as the world’s largest e-commerce platform, said the service would be called Tmall Box Office (TBO), offering streaming access to local and foreign content, including original fare.

The Chinese company disclosed the plans at the Shanghai International Film Festival, according to Reuters.

"The mission of all of Alibaba, is to redefine home entertainment," spokesperson Patrick Liu said. "Our goal is to become like HBO in the United States, to become like Netflix in the United States."

Indeed, the SVOD service would field streaming video competition from Chinese search giant Baidu Inc., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Sohu.com, among others.

HBO and Tencent last November announced a partnership whereby select programming from the premium channel was made available on the Chinese operator’s Tencent Video, a subscription streaming website catering to connected portable devices, including PCs.

Regardless, Alibaba is no stranger to home entertainment, holding a 16.5% stake in transactional VOD service Youku Tudou. Separately, Wasu Media Holding Co., a company backed Alibaba CEO Jack Ma, has been in talks with Netflix about the SVOD pioneer launching service in the Communist country.

More importantly, Alibaba a year ago announced a joint venture with Lionsgate called Lionsgate Entertainment World, a subscription streaming service for mainland China made available through Alibaba's latest generation set-top box.

The Lionsgate Entertainment World (LGEW) service offered instant access to the first installment of the "Divergent" franchise, as well as several titles from the "Twilight" franchise, among other content.

A Lionsgate representative declined to comment, but a source familiar with the situation said Alibaba's pending SVOD service wouldn't impact LGEW. In fact, the new Chinese platform would derive content from multiple sources.

"If Alibaba wants to build the HBO or Netflix of China, obviously they will want to access content from multiple studios, including Lionsgate," said the source.

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