US media group Lionsgate has linked with Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group to launch a subscription streaming service.
Lionsgate and Alibaba will jointly operate LGEW, which will offer Lionsgate shows such as upcoming E! drama The Royals, ABC’s Nashville and NBC miniseries Rosemary’s Baby. Other titles on the platform will include AMC’s Mad Men and Showtime’s Weeds.
At launch, which is penciled in for next month, Hollywood block busters including the first instalment of the Divergent franchise and several titles from the Twilight Saga franchise will also be offered.
Thereafter, the service’s portfolio will be “continuously expanded after launch” with movies such as The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and its upcoming follow-up, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1.
The move is significant for Lionsgate, which is best known as a producer and distributor, though it does own stakes in TV Guide Network in the US and Asian venture Celestial Tiger’s bouquet of pay TV networks. It has sold shows into China for some time, but this the first time it will curate its content in the territory.
Alibaba, meanwhile, is entirely dominant in Chinese e-commerce, with some estimates suggesting it claims around 80% of local market trade.
It has made a concerted push into entertainment, recently paying more than US$800 million for a stake in Chinese film production studio ChinaVision Media Group (now renamed Alibaba Picture Group). Before that, it had partnered with Wasu Digital TV Media Group to create set-top boxes, which will now be used to power LGEW. It also has an 18.5% stake in leading Chinese VOD platform Youku Tudou, and a partnership to produce formats with Shanghai Media Group.
The Wall Street Journal reported Alibaba has been approaching Chinese studios about creating or acquiring films and TV shows to stream online, though the firm declined to comment officially.
“Alibaba is the kind of entrepreneurial company with whom we like to be in business, and the launch of our streaming service in China underscores our commitment to innovation and leadership in delivering premium content to digital platforms around the world,” said CEO Jon Feltheimer (pictured above).
“We are thrilled to be collaborating with Lionsgate to offer this new content streaming service and deliver high quality, entertaining and relevant TV shows and movies to our users,” added Patrick Liu, president of Alibaba Group’s digital entertainment business unit.
“We are committed to expanding our ecosystem where our users can meet, work and live, and this cooperation signals our ongoing commitment to advance our vision of making digital media entertainment available to our customers anywhere, anytime.”