The two companies announced today that they are teaming up to launch Lionsgate Entertainment World, a subscription streaming service for mainland China that will be exclusive to owners of Alibaba’s latest set-top box. This will let users gain access to films such as the first installment of the Divergent franchise, several titles from Twilight Saga, as well as TV series including Nashville, Mad Men and Weeds.
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The service is expected to debut in August, and will subsequently be continuously updated after launch to include additional film titles such as The Hunger Games series. It will stream in high quality resolution (up to full HD) and offer content recommendations based on curation and algorithms.
In addition, the new service will also see Alibaba subscribers gain access to exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and VIP membership benefits such as screening invitations and special merchandise.
Other than benefiting Alibaba, the deal also gives Lionsgate a much broader reach into the vast mainland Chinese market.
“The Lionsgate Entertainment World service will be distinguished not only by the breadth and depth of our content portfolio but our commitment to provide Chinese consumers with first run films, television shows and behind-the-scenes experiences that aren’t available anywhere else in China,” Lionsgate’s president of worldwide television and digital distribution, Jim Packer, and the company’s co-chief operating officer Brian Goldsmith said.
It’s been clear for some time that Alibaba wants to branch out further into digital entertainment — in March it paid $804 million for a majority stake in ChinaVision Media Group, a Hong Kong firm specializing in TV and film production. This came after after it stepped into mobile games, developed a smart TV operating system, and acquired social music-streaming service Xiami last year.
In particular, its march to conquer the living room is intensifying. In April, Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma and other partners shelled out $1 billion for Wasu Media, which it worked with previously to release its first set-top box Wasu Rainbow. Subsequently, Alibaba rolled out smart TVs that run on its smart TV OS, which incorporated e-commerce and supported games and other forms of entertainment. This deal with Lionsgate is likely to attract users who are keen to access Hollywood blockbusters and Western TV series right in their living room, and could be a competitive advantage for Alibaba.
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