Alibaba rolls out Netflix-style TBO streaming video service in China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 September, 2015, 10:11am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 September, 2015, 12:42pm

Alibaba has launched a movie streaming service for users in China as the e-commerce giant seeks to further expand into entertainment.

Tmall Box Office, or TBO, will offer a mix of third-party and in-house produced content, as well as domestic and foreign films and TV shows through a partnership with Lionsgate, including Mad Men and the Twilight series.

While the service has not been officially announced, Tech in Asia reported that it has become available to users of Alibaba smart TVs and set-top boxes following an update pushed to those devices on Tuesday.

The service will cost 39 yuan (US$6) per month for unlimited viewing, or 365 yuan (US$57) for 12 months. By comparison, Netflix costs US$7.99 per month for customers in North America.

Users can pay for the TBO service via their smartphone, using their Alipay wallet.

“Our mission, the mission of all of Alibaba, is to redefine home entertainment,” Patrick Liu, Alibaba head of digital entertainment said in June.

“Our goal is to become like HBO in the United States, to become like Netflix in the United States.”

Alibaba Pictures, the firm's film financing and production company, has been expanding since it was acquired (as ChinaVision) in March 2014.

In April, Alibaba Pictures bought Guangdong Yueke, one of China's largest suppliers of cinema-ticketing systems, giving it a foothold in thousands of theatres across the country. In June, the company raised US$1.57 billion by issuing new shares.

This week, the film unit signed a deal to invest in Little Door Gods, the US$25 million budget, first feature-length film by animation house Light Chaser.

Light Chaser was founded in 2013 by Gary Wang, founder of Chinese online video streaming site Tudou.