Alibaba Plans to Create China’s Version of Netflix, HBO

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. is planning to build China’s version of Netflix Inc. and HBO via a new service called Tmall Box Office, as it tries to service 600 million families craving more entertainment content.

The new service will be offered in about two months through Alibaba’s set-top box and smart televisions that carry its operating system, including those manufactured by Haier Group Corp., Liu Chunning, president of Alibaba’s digital entertainment business, said in Shanghai on Sunday. Some of the content will be produced by the company and some purchased overseas, Liu told the press briefing.

Alibaba is on a buying spree as it tries to compete with Tencent Holdings Ltd. for China’s $5.9 billion online video market. Alibaba Pictures Group Ltd. completed a HK$12.2 billion ($1.57 billion) stake sale in Hong Kong to help finance potential acquisitions in June. Billionaire Chairman Jack Ma visited Hollywood in October to acquire more content.

“We want to create a whole new family entertainment experience,” Liu said. “Our goal is to become like Netflix in the U.S., HBO in the U.S.”

Alibaba is also exploring opportunities to build e-commerce businesses based on brands that film stars wear in shows and movies, said Liu, adding that the company would be open to working with Hollywood.

Shares of Alibaba Pictures rose 0.3 percent to HK$3.07 in Hong Kong trading Monday. Netflix declined 1.1 percent to $654.02 at the close in New York. Time Warner, owner of HBO, was little changed at $86.18.

Alibaba’s crowdfunding platform Yu Le Bao has raised 530 million yuan ($85.4 million) and invested in 24 projects, Liu said.

The value of China’s online video market is estimated to almost triple to 90 billion yuan by 2018, according to Shanghai-based Internet consultant IResearch.

Wasu Media Holding Co., a Chinese media company backed by Ma, has also held talks with Netflix as the broadcaster of “House of Cards” hopes to expand in China, the company said in May.

— With assistance by Gregory Turk, and Lulu Chen

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