Alibaba is launching its own Netflix competitor

Called Tmall Box Office, or TBO, it will launch in two months and will be mostly paid content

Technology trends and news by Steven Loeb
June 15, 2015
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Netflix may be looking for way to enter the Chinese market, but when it gets there it's going to have one big new competitor to deal with. 

E-commerce giant Alibaba, the type of company that has its hand in every type of industry you can think of, is set to launch its own video-streaming service in the next couple of months, the company announced on Sunday, Alibaba has confirmed to VatorNews. The service will be called Tmall Box Office, nicknamed "TBO," it will be mostly a paid content streaming service over the Tmall set top box.

It will include content both from China, as well as from other countries. It will also include in-house productions, Patrick Liu, president of Alibaba's digital entertainment group, told reporters, according to Reuters.

Roughly 90 percent of TBO's content will be paid for, in one of two ways: either by monthly subscription or on a show-by-show basis.  The remaining 10 percent would be free. The service is meant to emulate Netflix.

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

Alibaba's interest in video streaming is not a secret, as it has made numerous investments in this area, just in the last year.

It bought a controlling stake in ChinaVision Media Group for $804 million in March of 2014, and then put 6.54 billion Yuan ($1.05 billion) for a 20% stake in Chinese Internet TV company Wasu Media Holding in April. That same month, it paid $1.22 billion for an 18.5% stake in Chinese online video streaming site Youku Tudou.

Alibaba has also entered into partnerships with Hollywood: last July, the company teamed up with Lionsgate a subscription streaming service for mainland China that offered titles such as the “Twilight," “The Hunger Games,” “Divergent” and “Mad Men.” 

In October, it was reported that Jack Man, Alibaba founder, and its former CEO, was set to meet with the heads of major Hollywood studios in order to acquire their content for online distribution, however it is unclear if that had anything to do with the news of TBO.

 "Content is an integral part of Alibaba Group's ecosystem and we aim to provide our users with rich and unique content on-demand and on a variety of devices," an Alibaba Group spokeswoman told VatorNews.

The fact that Alibaba is trying to be a Chinese Netflix is interesting, since Netflix itself has not been shy about its plans to enter the Chinese market. In May Ted Sarandos, chief content officer at Netflix, talked openly about how the company would approach this, saying "our intent is not to go into China without a partner, our intent to try to figure out China and how to get there.

Netflix is said to currently be in talks with Wasu Media, and perhaps other big names in the Chinese video streaming market, 

China's online video market is said to be worth $5.9 billion, and Wasu is one of seven companies to have received  Internet TV licenses from China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. So such a partnership would be necessary for Netflix to work within the government's controls over licensing for online content.

VatorNews has reached out to Netflix for comment on how this news will affect their future plans. We will update this story if we learn more. 

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