Alibaba announces Netflix-like streaming service for China

DetailsRebecca Hawkes | 16 June 2015

China's e-commerce giant Alibaba is set to launch an online video streaming service in the coming two months.

The new service, named Tmall Box Office (TBO), is expected to carry international content as well as promoting in-house productions; Alibaba owns the film studio, Alibaba Pictures. Some 90% of the on-demand content will be subscription-based or available via pay-per-view while the remaining 10% will be free. The service will be accessible via connected TVs as well as over-the-top (OTT) boxes.

"Our goal is to become like HBO in the United States, to become like Netflix in the United States," said Patrick Liu, head of Alibaba's digital entertainment business, according to Reuters.

Alibaba already holds a 16.5% stake in China's largest online video company Youku Tudou.

Other major Chinese VOD companies Baidu, Tencent, iQiyi and Soho will also provide keen competition for the new venture.

Netflix is currently considering entry to the Chinese market. Speaking at the Cannes Film Festival in May, chief content officer Ted Sarandos said that CEO Reed Hastings wants to "try to figure out China and how to get there".

China's online video market expected to nearly triple to US$14.5 billion by 2018. The Asian country is the world's largest Internet market, with 649 million users and nearly two-thirds of the audience using smartphones and tablets to watch content.