Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA:US) teamed with Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. (LGF:US) to stream Hollywood movies and television shows as China’s biggest e-commerce operator expands its video content.
Lionsgate Entertainment World will be delivered through a new Alibaba set-top box in China and include titles from “The Hunger Games” franchise and the TV series “Mad Men.”
Alibaba, which may be headed toward the largest U.S. initial public offering, is adding content as consumer living rooms turn into a new battleground for technology companies. In April, the Hangzhou, China-based company led a $1.22 billion investment in online video site Youku Tudou Inc. after agreeing in March to pay HK$6.24 billion ($805 million) for a 60 percent stake in ChinaVision Media Group Ltd. (1060), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“It’s another way for us to get content into the China market with a great partner,” Jim Packer, Lions Gate president of worldwide television and digital distribution said in a telephone interview. “We’re always exploring opportunities in China, it’s a growing content market, it’s a content market you have to be in.”
The service will also enable subscribers to see behind-the-scenes footage and receive screening invitations. Packer declined to disclose the details of the partnership structure and the price for subscription. The service starts next month.
Santa Monica, California-based Lions Gate said TV shows including “Nashville” and “Rosemary’s Baby” will make their Chinese debuts on the new service, which will also add movie titles including the “Divergent” and “Twilight” franchises.
“We are committed to expanding our ecosystem where our users can meet, work and live,” Patrick Liu, president of Alibaba Group’s digital entertainment business unit, said in the e-mailed statement.
Alibaba filed for an IPO in May. The company has a value of $168 billion, according to analysts’ average estimate. While the valuation may change with the updated financials, it indicates a price of 45 times the latest year’s earnings, data compiled by Bloomberg show.
Alibaba released its first set-top box in collaboration with Wasu Media Holding Co. (000156) in September. On October, it announced it would release another box under the Tmall brand, the name of one of Alibaba’s biggest e-commerce platforms.
China’s set-top box industry is facing increased government scrutiny.
Regulators banned cable networks from pre-installing unapproved operating systems on set-top boxes, according to a July notice. The pre-installation of unapproved video applications in TV set-top boxes was banned in Zhejiang and Shanghai, Sina.com reported in June.
Alibaba said it would increase its investment in content and adjust based on regulators’ requirements.
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