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Chinese video platform Youku signs licensing deals with NBC Universal, Sony Pictures TV

With China’s paying subscribers expected to reach 140m by 2020, video sites are splurging on licensing Hollywood films and producing original content

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 1:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 December, 2017, 10:03pm

Youku subscribers will soon be able to watch movies such as Blade Runner 2049 and the upcoming Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom, thanks to a licensing deal the Chinese video platform signed with NBC Universal and Sony Pictures Television.

Youku, the video platform arm of Alibaba Group Holding and one of China’s top video streaming platforms, announced the deal on Thursday as Chinese video platforms race to offer more premium content to attract paying subscribers. Currently, the firm’s Youku’s content currently reaches 580 million devices and garners 1.18 billion daily views, the company said.

“By cooperating with NBC Universal and Sony Pictures Television to show famous Hollywood films on our platform, we can bring richer global content into Alibaba’s entertainment ecosystem,” said Yang Weidong, president of Youku, Alibaba Digital Media and Entertainment Group.

“I am confident that expanding our relationships with more international studios will further enhance our platform’s penetration into the home entertainment business and push the online video and over the top (OTT) business to greater heights.”

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With China’s paying subscriber base expected to reach 140 million by 2020 according to a Jeffries estimate, video platforms are keen to carve out a larger slice of the pie.

Platforms such as Youku, iQiyi and Tencent Video are splurging not only on licensing films from Hollywood studios but also on producing original television series and movies.

“Chinese consumers’ lifestyles and consumptions are constantly changing, and subscribers are also now more willing to pay for the premium content since copyright awareness has gradually increased,” said Neil Wang, Greater China president of consultancy firm Frost & Sullivan.

“It is critical for video streaming platforms to invest a great amount of capital resources to acquire premium content not only to strengthen their competitive advantage, but also to increase subscribers’ loyalty.”

In April Baidu’s popular Chinese video platform iQiyi signed a content deal with US-based Netflix to show the latter’s popular television shows in China, such as Black Mirror and Stranger Things.

iQiyi also signed a deal with film studio Warner Bros in March to give iQiyi subscribers access to movies including The Lord of the Rings and Gravity. In terms of original content, iQiyi has produced series such as Tientsin Mystic and Burning Ice, drawing hundreds of millions of views.

Shenzhen-based Tencent, which operates Tencent Video, signed an agreement with Disney in 2013 for access to its Disney, Pixar Studios and Walt Disney Studio content. Last week, it struck a deal with DHX Media, licensing television shows targeted at kids such as Teletubbies and Inspector Gadget.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.