Jack Ma’s internet giant Alibaba Group has struck a deal with Chinese film company DMG and Hunan TV to bundle subscription-based Internet, cable and mobile entertainment, along with gaming, film and TV content, to Chinese consumers for the first time.
The service will be offered to Hunan TV’s six million cable TV subscribers first and then roll out across China, according to a filing made to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange. Both DMG and Hunan are listed there. The statement added that the service will be offered through Alibaba’s TMall e-commerce platform. Financial details and timings were not disclosed.
E-commerce titan Alibaba has been on a drive of late to enter the rapidly growing film and entertainment market in China and take on rival online players Baidu and Tencent. Last month, Alibaba announced it was launching TBO, a video streaming platform run through Alibaba’s set-top box, which gets content from Wasu Media, a film distribution company that Jack Ma has invested in. Earlier this month, Alibaba Pictures, the group’s film unit, announced plans to raise $1.6 billion through a share placement. The company announced its capital raise would be used to boost its presence in the growing Chinese film market.
Alibaba Pictures has seen its share price rocket by 160% this year amid consumer confidence both in the perception it is being positioned to become a major player in China, and also by a wider keenness for investors in the Middle Kingdom to be involved in media and content generation.
Alibaba Pictures was borne out of the acquisition of a majority 60% stake of ChinaVision Media Group by Ma’s group in March 2014 for $800 million as the e-commerce entrepreneur sought to add as much value to his group as possible ahead of the ultimately blockbusting IPO last September. The newly monikered company has gradually been working towards expanding its operations since its launch. In January, it announced it had brought on-board celebrated Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai (In The Mood For Love) to produce its first film Bai Du Ren, written and directed by Zhang Jiajia and starring Wong Kar Wai regular Tony Leung (2046).
In March, Ma announced Alibaba had also acquired an 8.8% stake in Enlight, one of China’s leading film and TV production companies, valued at $380 million. In April, shares in Alibaba Pictures soared after its parent company — at one point valued at more than Walmart — announced it was considering an asset injection in the film unit and that it was planning to fold its online movie-ticketing business as well as its movie production crowdfunding business into Alibaba Pictures.
Alibaba owns an 18.5% stake in Youku Toudu Inc., one of China’s biggest video-streaming companies. Jack Ma also holds a minority stake in Huayi Brothers.
Earlier this month, Alibaba Pictures announced it was making its first Hollywood investment by co-financing Paramount’s Tom Cruise secret agent pic Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. In addition to its financial investment, the level of which was not disclosed, the film unit of the e-commerce giant will collaborate with Paramount on online ticketing, promotion and merchandising for the film’s release in China.
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